A man who was at the centre of a sex charge affair that rocked the Republic’s anti-abortion laws 10 years ago was jailed in Dublin today after being convicted of a second sex crime.
The 52-year-old Dubliner received a 14-year jail term for having unlawful carnal knowledge in 1992 of a 14-year-old girl, who became pregnant. The sentence, which followed what became known as the X-case was later reduced to four years.
Today the man, a separated father of three, was sent to prison for three-and-a-half years at Dublin’s Circuit Criminal Court for the sexual assault and false imprisonment of a 15-year-old girl while he was working as a taxi driver in the capital in 1999.
By coincidence the latest sentence was imposed on the eve of a new referendum on Ireland’s constitutional barrier to abortion that was thrown into confusion by the 1992 incident.
The accused man denied the fresh charges against him but on conviction he was told by Judge Pat McCartan that he was ‘‘a serious menace.’’
The judge also queried how the man had ever been in a position to operate a taxi and said he intended to ensure it did not happen in the future. He directed that his name should be entered on Ireland’s sexual offenders’ registered.
Afterwards, the victim of the latest attack said the three-and-a-half year sentence the man received was ‘‘disgraceful.’’
The sentence was also criticised by parliamentary opposition parties in Dublin. Alan Shatter, justice spokesman for the Fine Gael party, said: ‘‘Courts must take a harsher view of serial sex offenders.
‘‘Today’s sentence handed down to the man originally found guilty of statutory rape in the X-case is far too lenient.
‘‘The extraordinary coincidence of this man being sentenced today should start alarm bells ringing.’’
The new sentence has also prompted demands for an investigation of the way taxi licences are made available to people with court convictions.
After the 1992 offence, the girl involved was initially banned from travelling to Britain for an abortion.
But that ruling was later overturned by the Supreme Court - the country’s ultimate legal authority -and the constitutional position became unclear.
A subsequent referendum failed to resolve the question and tomorrow’s nationwide poll marks another bid for clarification.
The electorate is being asked to vote on a government proposal guaranteeing the ban on abortion in Ireland, except in cases where the life of a mother is considered to be at risk but ruling out the threat of suicide as a reason for termination.
:: A report released in Dublin today urged that sex offenders who agreed to take part in treatment programmes should be released from jail before completing their sentences.
The official report on the development of treatment programmes for the 370 sex offenders currently in Irish jails also recommended integration with other jail inmates in some cases and special training for prison officers in the field.