Sentence for rapes was ‘seriously inadequate’

The Court of Appeal has doubled the "very seriously inadequate" six-year sentence imposed on a man who raped one woman and sexually assaulted another within hours of each other.

In October 2011, Christopher Farrell, aged 30, had concurrent sentences totalling six years imposed on him by Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan for the rape, oral rape, attempted rape, and false imprisonment of one woman and the sexual assault of another on September 16, 2007, at two locations in Louth.

Farrell, last of Rathmullen Park, Drogheda, had pleaded not guilty to the offences but was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury of the attacks. He has 26 previous convictions, including one for assault causing harm to another woman.

The DPP appealed against the sentence on the grounds of “undue leniency”.

Shane Costelloe, for the DPP, told the appeals court that Farrell was a perpetrator who carried out a “premeditated” attack, “preyed upon vulnerable women”, and did so twice in one night.

He told the court there was evidence that one of the victims struggled against the attack with such force that she broke the windscreen of Farrell’s car with her bare feet.

Mr Costelloe told the court the sum total of a six-year sentence imposed for the rape counts was “so grossly lenient” that it amounted to an error in principle.

He submitted that the aggravating factors in the case were not given due consideration by the trial judge, who placed “undue emphasis” on the mitigating factors. He said the trial judge erred by failing to regard Farrell’s two previous assault convictions as relevant to the offence.

Returning judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the appeals court “was is no doubt” the rape offences were at the higher end of the spectrum.

He said that, in respect of the two rape counts where concurrent sentences of six years were imposed, the court would quash those and in their place impose a sentence of 12 years.

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