The Court of Appeal has found that an eight-year prison sentence imposed on a man for raping his neighbours' daughter was too lenient.
In its decision delivered today, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan said the man's crimes stood “on the most heinous level” of offending which involved “depravity amounting to torture”.
The Roscommon man, who cannot be identified, had pleaded guilty to repeated rapes as well as sexual assault of a neighbour's young daughter between 2004 and 2008, Mr Justice Ryan said.
The victim was five years of age when the first offence took place.
The man had been sentenced by Mr Justice Paul Carney to eight years imprisonment on each of the 15 counts of rape and five years imprisonment on five counts of sexual assault.
His sentences, which were to run concurrently, were deemed unduly lenient by the Court of Appeal today following an application by the DPP.
Counsel for the DPP, Ms Caroline Biggs SC, had told the court that the victim was of particular and extreme vulnerability.
Her mother was also abusing her, and she allowed the man to have access to her daughter. Her father also sexually abused her but not to the degree of her mother, Ms Biggs said.
As some of the offences were being detailed to the court, Mr Justice Ryan said the extent of the depravity visited on the child could scarcely be exaggerated.
He reiterated comments by Ms Biggs that there were instances of “depravity amounting to torture”.
The court heard of “extremely depraved events” involving a dog leash before she was raped.
Mr Justice Ryan said the man had fixed on a five-year-old child and invaded her body in every possible way over the next three-and-a-half-years.
He said the offences took place between July 2004 and January 2008 until she was taken into the care of the Health Service Executive. For each year from 2004 to 2008 there was a “series of the most serious sexual crimes”, Mr Justice Ryan said.
The crimes were accompanied by instances of depravity and perversion including incidents which Mr Justice Ryan said he would “spare the court the sordid details” of.
He pleaded guilty a few days before the trial took place and was sentenced on July 31, 2013.
Mr Justice Seán Ryan said the sentencing judge did not say anything about the facts of the case because other court proceedings concerning the victim were pending at the time. As a result, it was not possible to know the judge's thinking process.
It was clear, Mr Justice Ryan said, that the offences had to be placed at the highest end of the scale.
The guilty man was a neighbour who had been in a sexual relationship with the child's mother. The violations were frequent, forceful and painful and involved perverse modes of gratification. On any appraisal it stood “at the most heinous level”, Mr Justice Ryan said.
The accused was not the only person who abused this unfortunate child but that did not affect his culpability, he said.
Ms Biggs told the court that the victim's mother has since been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with four-and-a-half suspended and her father had also pleaded guilty to similar offences.
Mr Justice Ryan said the sentencing judge fell into “grave error” by holding that a sentence of eight years for the rape charges was appropriate.
Mr Justice Ryan said the man's sentence will stand “as of now” but he repeated the court's ruling that it was unduly lenient.
A new sentence hearing will take place on February 13, 2015.