HSE investigation had given sex abuse stepfather the all-clear

The HSE was asked to investigate a man who was accused of sexually abusing his stepdaughter — he was given the all-clear and deemed to be at a low risk to children.

The man, Philip Dempsey, aged 48, moved back into the family home after this investigation.

Yesterday, he was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to three counts of sexual assault of his stepdaughter when she was a teenager at the family home between January 2000 and March 2003.

The victim said his moving back into the family home caused her to lose all contact with her mother and younger brothers.

The now 23-year-old woman earlier told the court her childhood was taken from her by her stepfather, who sexually abused her three times when she was aged 13.

Garda Mark Higgins told the court that the man forced the girl to masturbate him in the family home.

She said she was crying and felt dirty and horrible for days. After each incident, he told her he was sorry but acted like everything was normal.

The court heard Dempsey worked as a driving instructor but quit after being charged with the offences.

He is now engaging with the Forensic Psychological Services, formerly the Granada Institute.

Karen O’Connor, prosecuting, said the victim had opted to waive the protection of the court, meaning Dempsey can be publicly named.

Judge Desmond Hogan described the case as a difficult sentence with which to deal, noting that although these were serious crimes, they were not at the highest range for crimes of their kind.

He said the aggravating factors included Dempsey’s “severe breach of trust” in his position in the house and the young age of the victim. He added that he was “very cognisant” that the victim still suffered from the abuse and that Dempsey’s offending had split the family.

The judge took into account the mitigating factors, including Dempsey’s immediate and voluntary admissions to gardaí and his letter of apology to the victim.

A report handed into court concluded that the man is at a “very, very low risk” to children once he continues to engage with certain programmes.

Judge Hogan said that while the victim may have a certain opinion of this letter, “the greatest form of apology [Dempsey] could make is his guilty plea and he made that guilty plea in early course”.

He accepted testimonials handed in on behalf of Dempsey’s family and acknowledged his involvement in charity races.

He further noted that the victim’s mother, Dempsey’s wife, had taken him back into the family home without any objection by the HSE.

He added that to have been placed on the sex offenders’ register was a “penalty in itself”.

Judge Hogan imposed a three-year sentence with the final 18 months suspended for three years on condition Dempsey undergoes one-year Probation Service supervision on release.

Judge Hogan also directed that Dempsey engage in the Building Better Lives counselling programme.


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