A Co. Clare stable owner who raped and sexually assaulted a teenage girl has received a partially suspended sentence.
Ger Hehir (aged 58) was convicted after a seven-day retrial in November of four sexual assaults and one charge of raping the girl on dates between 2010 and 2013.
Hehir of Drumcavan, Ruan, Co. Clare had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to these charges. The offences were carried out at his home and at horse events around the country. Hehir has no previous convictions.
Mr Justice Robert Eagar sentenced him to seven years imprisonment for the rape. He suspended the final 18 months on condition he engage with a sexual offender's program and that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour while in custody and for three years upon his release.
He also sentenced Hehir to five years imprisonment for each sexual assault. All sentences are to run concurrent and are backdated to November 21 last, when Hehir went into custody after conviction.
A local garda told Eilis Brennan SC, prosecuting, that the first sexual assault happened in late 2010 when the girl was 16 years old. She was coming out of one of Hehir's stables when he pinned her up against the wall, put his hands up her top and tried to kiss her.
When she pinched him after asking him to stop, he told her not to do so because his partner would see the marks.
The teenager didn't tell anyone and a week later Hehir again tried to kiss her after he had given her a beer in an equipment room. He pushed on top of her and touched her breasts until she asked him “what if your mother comes?”. He then stopped the assault.
Sometime later in 2010, Hehir invited her to have a smoke out of a bedroom window at his home. She was doing so when he lifted her over the bed, took off one of her trouser legs and raped her.
The girl later revealed to gardaí that she “froze”. When she told Hehir that she was only 17, he replied: “You may be only 17, but you're years above your age”. The court heard the girl was actually 16 years old at this time.
In early 2011 she was in a horse box undoing a horse's tail bandage when Hehir came up behind her, put his hands in her pants and his finger into her vagina. She pushed him with her elbow and tried to pretend it had not happened.
The garda said the final sexual assault happened in 2013 in Cork. The then teenager was attending an event with her partner when she saw Hehir with some of his family.
Hehir gave her his jacket as it was raining and when she went to return it, he asked to “feel her bum”. When she said no, he put his hands up her top and squeezed her breasts. She cried all the way home and told her partner a few days later.
The woman, now in her 20s, addressed Hehir in her victim impact statement and told him that she had “lived a happy and enjoyable life” before his abuse and manipulation. She said she lost out on all her hobbies and turned away from her family because she was afraid of the shame and hurt the knowledge of the abuse might have caused them. She said the only way to cope was through drink and drugs.
“From a girl who had such an amazing life, you ruined everything,” she told Hehir.
“I have always looked for the best in people and I'm not a resentful person, but I feel you still don't understand the devastating effect this has had on me.”
She said she lives with anger every day, has severe anxiety and trust issues and had to give up a career goal because of the abuse. She thanked her family, the gardaí and the victim services in court.
Patrick Gageby SC, defending, said his client had worked all his life and that it was clear from character references that he was “an uncommonly good and obliging neighbour”.
Mr Gageby asked Mr Justice Eagar to take into account that his client had no experience of prison life.
Mr Justice Eagar said that there had been clear emotional harm to the victim in this case and that Hehir had never indicated remorse.