A man who repeatedly raped and sexually abused his niece has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
The 64-year-old Tipperary man, who cannot be named to protect his victim's identity, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to one count of rape, one count of attempted rape and three counts of sexual assault of the girl between December 1999 and May 2005. He has no previous convictions.
The court heard the victim was aged between five and 10 years old at the time.
Handing down a sentence of eight-and-a-half years with the final year suspended, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said he would have given a much longer sentence but he did not have “carte blanche” in relation to sentencing, in a reference to the Court of Appeal.
“If I was left to my own devices he'd be getting a much longer sentence. What I think or feel is appropriate is another day's work. I'm not at large to impose my personal views,” Mr Justice Hunt said today.
He said the victim impact statement of the now 23-year-old woman showed how the harm of sexual abuse could change a life forever.
“In this case, as in many others that come into this room, I see life-changing consequences as a result of the very serious harm inflicted,” he said.
He set a headline sentence of 12 years but reduced this after taking into consideration the man's early plea of guilty and his admissions.
Noting the absence of any other convictions, he said he would suspend the final year on condition that the man stay under the supervision of the Probation Service for two years after his release.
Mr Justice Hunt said he was taking into consideration the man's limited cognitive ability.
At a previous hearing, the woman told the Central Criminal Court that her uncle had “terrorised” and brainwashed her into keeping the abuse from her parents.
“I was so scared every single time I was told you were visiting or we were visiting you.
“On my Holy Communion Day while everyone was laughing and joking, I was terrified of what you'd do to me that night,” she said.
A detective garda told Anthony Sammon SC, prosecuting, that the first sexual assault happened on New Year's Eve, 1999, when the man was minding his niece and her siblings at his home.
The girl was alone with the man watching TV when he picked her up onto his lap, pulled down his pants and underwear and got her to rub him.
The man, who is illiterate and has low intelligence, told the girl not to tell anyone and promised to buy her sweets after she shouted out in fear.
The detective told Mr Sammon that the man had been staying at his niece's family home for a number of weeks around her First Holy Communion.
On one occasion during this visit, the man coaxed her into a shed, forced her onto the ground and raped her. The girl was then eight years old.
In another incident around the same time, he forced her to feel him underneath a number of blankets and cushions that had been set up to make a tent in her family living room.
The girl got free of him and ran upstairs. In 2004, she had been staying with her uncle when he came into her bedroom as she slept and forced her to touch him.
Then in 2005 she was once again staying at his home, when he came into her bedroom and held her down while he had his trousers and underwear down.
The little girl managed to push him off the bed and he hit his head off a bedside locker. The court heard this was the last instance of abuse.
Reading from her victim impact statement, the woman said she became depressed as a teenager and was afraid to share with her mother what was wrong, “because be a good girl and don't tell mammy and daddy was stuck in my head”.
“The shame and embarrassment I have felt for years nearly destroyed me”, she said, revealing that she had tried to take her own life on a number of occasions.
“I hope you feel shame and I hope you feel pain for what you've done and know this: I'll never forgive or forget what you've done to me.”
The detective garda agreed with Colman Cody SC, defending, that his client had low intelligence but had acknowledged the victim's depression was because of his abuse.
The detective further agreed that the man's guilty pleas were a relief to the victim.
Mr Cody asked Mr Justice Tony Hunt to take into consideration his client's age, his co-operation and his pleas when deciding a sentence.
He submitted that his client was very remorseful, had repeated to gardaí that he was sorry and had a letter of apology written on his behalf.