Rapist fails in appeal on severity of sentence

A rapist, who successfully challenged the constitutionality of a law stopping the payment of his State contributory old-age pension, has lost an appeal against the severity of his 12-year jail term.

The 77-year-old, whose details cannot be published to protect the victim’s identity, had denied 60 counts of sexual assaulting and 14 counts of raping his daughter at locations in Galway and Roscommon on dates between January 2002 and September 2006.

He was found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury following a retrial.

In May 2011, Mr Justice Paul Carney imposed concurrent 15-year sentences on each rape count and 10-year sentences on each sexual assault count, with the final three years suspended.

The man lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence yesterday, with the Court of Appeal unable to identify an error in either the sentencing judge’s approach or conclusions.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice John Hedigan said the man is the victim’s father and the offences took place mainly in the family home when the victim was aged between nine and 14.

Over the years, the assaults progressed from once or twice a week to every day, progressing from touching and digital penetration to rape. She was told that if she refused to go along with her father, she wouldn’t be allowed out to see her friends.

She was told that if she told her mother, her mother would hate her.

The victim ultimately wrote a note indicating her wish to leave the home.

The note was found by her mother who asked what it meant.

She told her mother what was happening and the mother insisted the man leave the home.

A victim impact statement detailed the “horror of the abuse” and how the victim felt alone and cut off.

The man was 71 years old at sentencing and had one minor previous conviction for a road traffic matter. He was described as having a lifetime devotion to hard work and sporting activities.

Aggravating factors were:

  • Breach of trust;
  • That the offences took place in the family home;
  • Age of the victim;
  • Duration and frequency of the offending;
  • Absence of any genuine remorse;
  • And “attempts to sabotage” the trial process with pre-trial communications to the victim and her mother.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the Court of Appeal could not address the issues raised in the Supreme Court’s finding that section 249.1 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 was unconstitutional because no leave to add additional grounds of appeal had been sought.

Having worked in the State and made PRSI contributions, the man got the contributory pension when he retired in 2005.

After his conviction, his pension payments were stopped. He challenged section 249.1 on the basis that it was incompatible with the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

The core issue was whether a prisoner has a constitutional right to payment of the State contributory pension.

In July, the Supreme Court found the effect of the section was an additional penalty not imposed by a court and, as such, an impermissible administration of justice by legislation.

Mr Justice Hedigan said the Court of Appeal could find no error in the sentencing judge’s approach or conclusions.

The appeal was accordingly dismissed.

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