A Dublin man has been given a four-year suspended sentence for sexually assaulting four of his young female cousins as a teenager.
The 33-year-old man, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of his victims had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in July 2018 to six charges of sexual assault which involved four of his cousins on unknown dates between 2000 and 2006 at a location in Dublin city.
The court had previously heard that both the man and the four victims, one of whom was just four years old at the time, are members of a large, extended family which has been deeply divided since the offences came to light.
The women, now aged in their twenties, wrote victim impact statements read out in court which all expressed how their extended family had once been very close-knit but was now “torn apart”.
The offences were first reported after two of the cousins had a sleepover in December 2014 and one asked the other if the man had ever touched her.
When they realised that they had both been sexually assaulted, the girls informed their parents. The court heard that further allegations surfaced from two other cousins and gardaí were contacted.
All four women said they continue to suffer from depression and anxiety as a result of the abuse and that they have struggled with personal relationships.
They said they have flashbacks about the assaults and get panic attacks or feel sick whenever they see the man. He has no previous convictions.
The court heard that the day after gardaí first met the women and the defendant, the man presented at a garda station and made full admissions.
Judge Sinead Ní Chúlacháin said he had pleaded guilty at an early stage which had provided some emotional comfort to his cousins as it was an acknowledgement that he had done wrong and they were to be fully believed.
The judge said he had shown an increasing awareness and insight into the impact of his offences on his victims.
She noted the Probation Service had assessed him as having a moderate risk of re-offending within the next five years.
The court heard he had been found unsuitable to take part in the Safer Lives treatment programme for convicted sex offenders but that there was the possibility of a place on another programme in early 2020.
Judge Ní Chúlacháin said no penalty she imposed on the man could take back what his victims had lost in terms of their innocence, trust and sense of security.
The judge imposed jail terms ranging from one year to four years for the six charges of sexual assault but suspended all of them.
A psychological report showed the accused suffered significant weaknesses in verbal reasoning, expression and comprehension and became vulnerable when feeling anxiety and depression and could become overwhelmed by his emotions.
The judge said he had reduced personal growth which hampered his feelings of empathy and she remained concerned that he had a limited understanding of the effects of his offences on his cousins.
The eldest cousin said she was aged about eight years old when the first offence took place in her bedroom.
The man, then aged about 14 years, grabbed her and forced her down on the floor, covering her mouth with his hand and thrusting his body up and down on top of her until she managed to push his hand away and scream.
She said a similar offence took place a few weeks later but she managed to kick or push him off.
The girl said she had started secondary school when he assaulted her a third time by groping her breast and putting his hand down her jeans.
A further assault took place when she was dancing with some of her cousins and the man came up behind her and cupped her private parts with his hands.
The second cousin said she was aged seven or eight when the man followed her into her bedroom, forced her to the ground and started to “dry hump” her, telling her to be quiet when she tried to scream.
On another occasion at around the same time, he took her on his lap and groped her, warning her to keep quiet about this and saying “you know I love you”.
She detailed two other incidents of sexual assault after which he warned her not tell anyone or they would both get in trouble.
The third cousin was aged just four or five when she went to the bathroom in the man's house and he grabbed her.
She said he put one hand down the outside of her tracksuit bottoms and touched her and lifted up her top with his other hand and started to kiss her chest.
When gardaí asked if she could differentiate at the time between a childhood game and something that felt wrong, she said she knew even then that it was wrong.
The fourth cousin said she was about six or seven years and was having difficulty undoing her dungarees when the man started to help her, but instead put her on the ground on her back and groped her private parts.