Rape crisis groups have criticised an appeal court’s decision to reduce the sentence of two sexual offenders despite predicting they would reoffend on release.
The two men, aged 22 and 24, were jailed for 10 years in 2013 for what was described as an attempted “predatory gang rape” on a woman in Cork in 2009.
Their trial judge at the time said they had deliberately gone out looking for a woman, driving around with a mattress in a van “customised for sex”.
“They behaved as a predator would to a wounded quarry in a David Attenborough documentary. Unspeakable outrages were perpetrated on her,” Judge Paul Carney said.
Appeals against their convictions for sexual assault, attempted rape and oral rape were dismissed in July but yesterday their appeals against their sentences were allowed and the final year was suspended.
With normal remission added, the defendants — who can not be named for legal reasons — will now be out of prison in just over three and a half years time.
The three-judge appeal court suspended the final year on the grounds that the men were likely to reoffend on release if they did not have incentives to rehabilitate themselves.
But Mary Crilly, director of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre, said very often the places on sex offender programmes in prison were not taken up because participation was voluntary.
“Those men won’t have to show that they have changed to get out early. In other countries where you go for parole you have to prove that you have taken part in programmes and have changed.
“They already have 25% of their sentence off as remission so I think giving more off is appalling. It sends a message to people that even something as horrific as this can be minimised again and watered down and reduced. It’s awful for the victim that this is dragging on and on and that this is the outcome.
“Only one in four report a rape and it’s no surprise. Over the years if you look at how the gardaí deal with things, they’ve improved greatly, but once you go into the court it’s like going back to the last century again.”
The Rape Crisis Network of Ireland said the justice system and probation service were not equipped to rehabilitate.
Its director Cliona Saidlear, said: “You could see this as the judges and the courts operating to best principles except they’re operating in a system that doesn’t have the resources and doesn’t have the structures.”
She said risk assessment of offenders and post-release supervision provisions were dropped from the new Sexual Offences Bill: “These provisions really need to be prioritised by this Government or the next.”
Ellen O’Malley Dunlop of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, which runs the national 24-hour sexual violence helpline, said any suspension in a sentence should be conditional on both good behaviour and taking part in rehabilitation programmes.
“If they don’t do that, the suspension should be dropped,” she said.
In another case, the Court of Appeal cut the sentence of a man who claimed using his 13-year-old daughter to make child pornography was “simply a bit of fun”.
The man, who was found with more than 1,000 images and 74 videos in his home, was sentenced to 11 years in prison with the final two suspended but that was reduced to nine years with the final two suspended.
Mary Crilly said the sentence did not take account of the lifelong damage to the child involved. “We have a long way to go in recognising the seriousness of these offences,” she said.
The national 24-hour sexual violence helpline is freephone: 1800 77 88 88.
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