A Galway man has been sentenced to four years in prison with the final 18 months suspended for raping his eight-year-old sister in their family home when he was 17-years-old.
The now 54-year-old father of eight, denied the charge but was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury last month of raping the now 46-year-old woman between 1975 and 1976.
A local sergeant told Patrick McGrath SC, prosecuting, that the victim’s older sister found her upset and bleeding in their bed immediately after the rape. She told her that their brother had “hurt me down there”.
The sister reported the incident to their mother that night but after what counsel termed “a heated argument”, this sister washed the victim, put her in fresh clothes and left the family home with the girl to stay in a friend’s home.
Mr McGrath said the rape was not reported until the victim went to the gardaí in October 2010.
She told officers that she recalled her brother climbing into her bed and raping her.
She said it was very sore and that she bit the then attacker’s finger because of the pain. He then left the room.
The man was arrested but denied his sister’s allegation.
The sergeant told Mr McGrath that the man, who had worked for some time in the army before leaving, has several children from two relationships.
He has previous convictions for minor road traffic offences which all relate to the one incident.
The woman stated in her victim impact report, read into the record by Mr McGrath, that she has suffered from depression for a number of years for which she has been treated both as an in-patient and out-patient.
She said her children didn’t have the mother they deserved because she spent so much time in bed when they were older, “wanting to die”.
She was also not able to retain the relationship with their father because she was not able to love him due to her inability to trust people as a result of the rape.
The woman told the man that she had loved him as a brother and had trusted him but he had left her “a scared and broken person”.
“Maybe one day, with the help of God, I will be able to forgive you,” the woman said before she added she hoped that one day he will acknowledge what he has done to her and for the hurt he has caused her and her family.
Martin Giblin SC, defending, accepted that his client has been convicted of a serious offence but said he still maintains his innocence.
He asked Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan to accept that his client hadn’t delayed the case coming to the courts by intimidation and handed in a number of testimonials which described the man as being a good father and well thought of in the community.
Mr McGrath acknowledged that had the case been reported to the gardaí when the mother was made aware of what had happened, he would have been convicted under an older legislation which had a less severe penalty available for sentencing.
He suggested to Mr Justice Sheehan that, as the man is now convicted under a different legislation, he should sentence him as if he had committed the offence as a 17-year-old last year.
Mr Justice Sheehan said rape was “an extremely serious crime” and emphasised the suffering the victim has endured, pointing out that she attributes her life-long depression to the offence.
He noted that the victim “did not receive the proper care, comfort and treatment” she was entitled to at the time, and said if she had, some of her suffering may have been ameliorated.
He said the aggravating factors in the case are the young age of the victim at the time, the fact that she was in bed, and the breach of trust from her older brother.
The mitigating factors include the fact that the offence took place 38 years ago and the young age of the defendant at the time.
Mr Justice Sheehan also noted that the accused has an excellent work record and that 67 people provided a joint reference for him.
The judge also commented that if the accused had pleaded guilty and apologised, it may have been possible to consider some form of restorative justice.
He sentenced him to four years in prison with the final 18 months suspended.
The accused was also ordered to complete a sex offenders' rehabilitation programme in prison.
He must also keep the peace for five years and remain under the supervision of the probation services for one year after his release from jail.