A Sligo man has been sentenced to 14 years for the repeated rape and sexual abuse of his step-daughter from the time she was four years old.
The now 17-year-old victim, who reported the abuse to gardaí in July 2011, told officers that the man raped her the night her grandmother died and when she came home early during her Junior Certificate exams.
She stated in her victim impact report that she was very close to her grandmother and she couldn’t separate the memory of her death from that rape.
The 36-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the teenager, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 11 sample charges of rape, oral rape and sexual assault from 2000 to July 2011.
He was registered a sex offender and has been on remand in custody since he pleaded guilty just before his trial last July.
Mr Justice Paul Carney said he had taken into account the “inherent gravity of the offence”, the age of the victim when the offending commenced, the breach of trust, “the multiplicity of offences”, the fact it extended over a decade, the constant threat of “consequences” if the offending was revealed and the impact it had on the victim.
He sentenced the man to 14 years in prison, backdated to when he was first remanded, before he suspended the last four years taking into account his plea of guilty and lack of previous convictions.
The man was ordered to “stay away from the victim in perpetuity” and carry out 18 months post release supervision.
A local garda told Paul O’Higgins SC, prosecuting, that the victim reported that the abuse began with her step father touching her body from the age of four years old.
There was a constant threat behind the abuse and the girl was warned that there “would be consequences if anything was revealed”.
The teenager told gardaí that she was first raped in her first year of secondary school and recalled other similar incidences on the night of her grandmother’s wake and during her Junior Certificate exams.
The garda confirmed that the abuse also included oral rape.
In 2011 the teenager told her step father she “wasn’t having it anymore” and she confided in a neighbour who accompanied her to the garda station to report the abuse.
The teenager left the family home in 2011 and has been in full-time foster care since.
Her victim impact report, which was read into the record, stated she didn’t have words to describe how she felt during the abuse.
“He made me sick. He took away my childhood and my childhood is filled with bad memories,” the girl said before she described spending her younger years feeling “scared, terrified and sick”.
She said she loved the man as her father but he told her if he had his own children he wouldn’t have touched them.
“I had thoughts in my head every day that I was wrong and what was happening was my fault and it was normal. When I was 15 he told me if I told the gardaí he would go down for a long time and he would never speak to me again but he continued to abuse me,” she continued.
The teenager said she was afraid to tell her mother in case the man hurt her and she never knew the right thing to do.
“It still feels like I am being watched even though I know he can’t hurt me anymore,” the report stated before the girl added that taking baths reminds her of the abuse.
“When I heard he was pleading guilty I felt like my childhood was starting again. My day to day life is getting better. I feel like a weight has been lifted off me,” the girl concluded before she thanked her foster mother, uncle, a friend and the investigating garda for their support.
The man, who has no previous convictions, made full admissions on his arrest in November 2011.
The garda agreed with Brendan Grehan SC, defending, that the man also made admissions to “a separate matter” during his questioning.
She said she was not aware that he had been assessed as having a mild mental disability but said she was aware that he had been a psychiatric in patient through his life from the age of 17.
Mr Grehan said his client had been a victim of sexual abuse as a child and that “incest was rife in the family home”.
The man had attended for six session of treatment with a sexual offenders programme in Donegal since his arrest and counsel submitted that he acknowledges the hurt he has done.
Mr O’Higgins told Mr Justice Carney that the Director of Public Prosecution views the case at the upper end of the spectrum considering the age of the victim when the abuse began, the period of time it lasted for and the impact of it on her.