A Westmeath man and former Irish solider who raped a 12-year-old girl twice a week for four years has been jailed for 10 years by Mr Justice Paul Carney.
Thomas Cunningham (aged 42) of Cosgrove’s Flats, Dominick Street, Mullingar, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to nine sample charges of raping the victim on dates between May 1, 2002 and June 31, 2006.
Cunningham also sent text messages to the girl calling her “his lover” and asking her “to make love to me”.
The incidents came to light when the victim’s brother walked in on Cunningham having sex with the girl. He did not tell anyone at the time, but told their mother two years later when he discovered them a second time.
The victim had told gardaí that she wanted the man’s name to be published but asked that her identity be protected.
She stated in a victim impact report that she “had been a happy and contented child” and recounted the first time she was raped in which she said she remembered “hoping for a miracle” that it would stop and feeling “disgusting” afterwards.
She said at the time she did not understand what sex was or what was happening to her. She said that Cunningham would buy her gifts and jewellery but she would throw them away.
The woman said that the sexual abuse still troubles her on a daily basis and that she cannot be left alone and never socialises. She suffers from panic attacks and has no confidence.
“He has destroyed everything in my life. My life has been messed up,” the woman stated.
Mr Justice Carney declared Cunningham a sex offender and directed that he undergo eight years post-release supervision upon his release from custody.
He described the offences as “outrageous”. He also took into account the effect Cunningham’s crimes had on the victim.
Mr Justice Carney said he had also take into consideration Cunningham’s lack of previous convictions, his co-operation with the investigation, his plea of guilty, his expression of “genuine remorse”, his work history and a report from the Granada Institute which concluded that the accused was at a low risk of reoffending.
Detective Garda Michael Burke told Mr Vincent Heneghan BL, prosecuting, that Cunningham would send notes to the school, purporting to be the girl’s mother, stating that she needed to be let leave school early to attend medical appointments.
Det Gda Burke said that Cunningham made voluntary statements to the gardaí and admitted that all the girl’s allegations were true. He had no previous convictions.
Det Gda Burke agreed with Mr Giollaiosa O’Lideadha SC, defending, that Cunningham had served 21 years in the Irish army but has since retired.
He accepted that “financial arrangements” had been put in place by Cunningham to pay 70% of his pension every month to the girl for a five-year period, as “an expression of his remorse”.
Mr O’Lideadha asked Mr Justice Carney to accept his client’s deep remorse and said he has taken responsibility for his actions.