A 69-year-old Co Clare man who sexually abused his three granddaughters has been given a three-year jail sentence by Mr Justice Paul Butler at the Central Criminal Court.
The widower, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty in June 2004 to 10 charges of sexual assault in relation to the three victims on dates from 1989 to 1999. The victims were aged variously nine to 15 years, six to 13 years and seven to eight years when abused.
Garda Deborah Marsh told Ms Mary Ellen Ring SC (with Mr John Coughlan BL) that two days after being questioned by gardaí, the man attempted suicide by taking an overdose and throwing himself into the river. He was then taken into psychiatric care. He had no previous convictions.
Mr Justice Butler said that in his view the five-year maximum sentence under the legislation was too low for what he called the most serious sexual abuse of young children by a person in a position of trust.
He said he would normally be reluctant not to take the advice offered in the reports before him but he believed that such offenders must know they are going to be jailed, "except in very exceptional circumstances".
Mr Justice Butler said it was only just a few minutes before he imposed sentence that the man withdrew under oath a claim he had made as recently as January this year that the sexual activity had been initiated by the victims.
"I am still very sceptical about his withdrawal of this claim but I must accept it. Until he did I had to accept that he was still making that claim," he said.
Mr Justice Butler noted he had pleaded guilty and certified him as a registered sex offender. He suspended the final two years of the sentence on condition that he continued with therapy and also followed the directions of the probation service.
Mr Justice Butler added that he expressed his sympathy with the victims who were in court and he also sympathised with the man’s daughter and her husband who had helped the accused in his rehabilitation.
Earlier, the man under oath apologised to his victims for his wrongdoing for which he said he was totally to blame. He said he withdrew fully the reported claim by him that the victims had initiated the abuse and added that he never wished to give that impression.
Garda Marsh said the offences happened in the man’s home when his wife was out and the victims were visiting. He was aged 53 to 59 years when he abused them and offered them sweets and other treats. He also asked them to keep it as their secret.
Garda Marsh said the abuse involved him masturbating himself while touching the girls’ bodies intimately and getting them to touch his penis. He also got two of the victims to touch each other.
One of the victims told her parents when she was nine years old and her father confronted him. Visits to his home were suspended for a time and later well supervised. Despite that, there was one further sexual assault by him on this victim.
Garda Marsh told Ms Ring the gardaí were called in after two of the victims were taken voluntarily into child protection. Their grandfather denied any wrongdoing and maintained this until his plea.
Mr Brendan Grehan SC (with Mr Lorcan Connolly BL), defending, said his client had a serious alcohol problem most of his life. This was exacerbated following the tragic death of his then 16-year-old son which had a profound effect on him.
Mr Grehan submitted that his initial denial of wrongdoing was not unusual in this type of case . There was limited therapeutic treatment available in custody with much more resources available in society which his client was availing off. He hoped soon to get a place in the Granada Institute.
Counsel said his client had changed from the person he was and had not drunk alcohol in two years. "Its like a ticking time bomb just to jail these offenders who are often then released back into society without any treatment whatever," Mr Grehan added.