A Limerick taxi driver who raped a young woman after agreeing to driver her home from a nightclub has had his seven-year sentence increased following a successful appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
However, the man will not spend any additional time in prison after the Court of Criminal Appeal this afternoon suspended three years of a newly imposed ten-year sentence.
The DPP had sought to appeal against what it submitted was the undue leniency of the seven-year sentence imposed on John Ryan (aged 45) of Clonard, Westbury, who was jailed after a jury found him guilty of rape and sexual assault by majority verdict in November 2009.
Ryan had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the rape and sexual assault of the woman on October 17, 2007 after picking her up in his cab a short distance from a Limerick nightclub.
The court heard that Ryan drove his then 18-year-old victim to a secluded area 20 minutes from where he collected her. The married cab driver then told her to take off her clothes before he removed his and raped and sexually assaulted her.
Ryan left the meter running during the incident and gardaí were able to track him down using a receipt the woman grabbed before leaving the car.
Returning an extemporary judgement, presiding judge Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell said this was a “disturbing” case and that there “cannot be a family in the country” that did not expect having a taxi fare guaranteed the safe return home of a daughter, sister, wife or partner.
He said in this case the young woman had suffered a horrifying ordeal and the appeal court had come to the conclusion that the sentence imposed was unduly lenient.
However, Mr Justice O’Donnell said the court noted Ryan had a significant disability and had regard to evidence he had shown charity to his family members in the past and that the prospect of an increased sentence had hung over him in prison.
He said the court would not increase Ryan’s prison term but would increase the sentence to one of ten years with three suspended.
Mr Justice O’Donnell said the court would impose a five-year post-release supervision order requiring Ryan to submit to any counselling or treatment proscribed by the probation services.
He said the failure to comply with this order could constitute a separate offence for which Ryan could be separately prosecuted.
Counsel for the Director, Mr Tom Creed SC, had submitted that the sentencing judge failed to give due weight to the significant aggravating factors in the case, including the breach in trust involved and the fact the respondent was in a vulnerable position.
He told the appeal court that the offence was on the higher end of the scale and that the sentencing judge should have imposed a tariff of between nine and fifteen years.
Mr Creed said that there were few mitigating factors to be considered as Ryan had “fought the case to the bitter end”, had shown no remorse and had demonstrated no change in his mindset that would indicate he was a good character for rehabilitation.
Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, for the respondent, submitted that a sentence of seven years was not a “gross deviation” from the sentencing norm as during the trial the DPP had considered the offence to be in the middle range of between “five and eight years”.
He said that his client was a man of with no previous convictions who had worked all his life and now suffered with “very discernible” ill health as an amputee and diabetic which made his time in jail very difficult.
Mr Hartnett said that although the State had submitted the offence was a breach of trust, it “may not be as severe” as the breach in trust involved in the abuse of a child by a parent or other relationships of that type.
Mr Hartnett said that because Ryan’s suitability to hold a public service vehicle license would be assessed should he ever reapply for one, he had in fact deprived himself of his own livelihood.