People queued to shake this sex attacker’s hand

IT was a scene that could have come from a John B Keane play – a bizarre gesture of support by some plain people of Kerry for a convicted sex offender.

Danny Foley, of Meen, Listowel, sat in the dock at the Circuit Criminal Court, in Tralee, yesterday, awaiting sentence for sexually assaulting a woman, having been found guilty by a jury almost two weeks ago.

A group of 50 people, mainly men and said to be neighbours and friends, trooped into the courtroom and marched up to the accused, in single file. Each man shook his hand – some hugged him warmly, with tears in their eyes. It was witnessed by the 24-year-old victim who cut a lonely figure in the front seat of the public gallery. Dressed in black, she sat with a female garda, a counsellor from the Kerry Rape Crisis Centre and a friend.

All the well-wishers then seated themselves in the public gallery. Judge Donagh McDonagh, who had not seen what happened, emerged from his chambers a few minutes later.

Foley, a 35-year-old bouncer who had been in custody since being convicted, then stood up.

Before handing down a seven-year prison sentence, with the last two years suspended, the judge told him he had lied about several things and there was something “particularly odious” about the allegation he and the victim had engaged in oral sex.

In the witness box, the victim calmly read from her victim impact statement in which she spoke of being judged in north Kerry for pursuing her case, but she was not sorry for telling the truth.

Parish priest, Fr Seán Sheehy, a character witness for Foley, said he had always struck him as having the highest respect for women, suggesting there wasn’t an abusive bone in Foley’s body.

The moment sentence was handed down, the accused’s mother began to scream loudly. The judge ordered she be removed from the courtroom.

Vera O’Leary, director of Kerry Rape Crisis Centre, called for a system to protect victims of sex offences from intimidation in a courtroom.

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