A Tipperary man, who claimed his partner’s 13-year-old daughter had initiated sexual contact due to hormonal urges, has appealed his seven-year sentence for sexually abusing her.
He has argued that the sentencing judge put too much weight on this blame that he apportioned to the child.
The 46-year-old, who cannot be named to protect the girl's identity, had pleaded guilty to defilement and sexual exploitation of a child and three charges of sexual assault on dates between September 2014 and August 2015. He had six previous convictions, including for sexual assault from 1993.
The Central Criminal Court heard last year that he had been in a relationship with the girl's mother at the time.
The girl told gardaí that she had seen the man as a father figure initially, but that he began kissing her while he was in her family home. She said the man later started to sexualise his text messages to her and that the abuse had escalated.
Later analysis of his phone confirmed that he had sent such text messages to the girl.
She told the sentencing court that she “grew to love and trust” the man. She said he shocked her one day when he met her on the stairs, grabbed her by the hand and kissed her on the lips.
The teenager said that, as time went on, there was more kissing between them, which made her “feel special inside”. She revealed that she thought it was normal to feel love in this way.
She said it clicked with her that this wasn't normal when she heard her friends talk about their relationships with their fathers. The girl said she began to feel sad and lonely and would pretend to be sick to stay off school.
She said when she moved to another relative's home, she felt a different kind of love that was normal.
The girl told the court she was not a victim anymore, that she was a survivor and wouldn’t let the abuse take over her life. Addressing the man, she said she could never forgive him for ruining her early teenage years, but that she was finally closing this chapter in her life.
Her abuser had claimed that the incidents had happened because of the girl's hormonal urges.
Mr Justice White imposed a nine-year sentence with the final two years suspended.
The abuser appealed that sentence to the Court of Appeal today.
His barrister, Colman Cody SC, submitted that the sentencing judge had erred in seeing as an aggravating factor the fact that he had blamed her for initiating the sexual contact.
Justice Isobel Kennedy asked if the trial judge was not entitled to consider that as relevant to his remorse or level of insight.
“It is my submission that undue weight was attached to it,” replied Mr Cody.
Court President Justice George Birmingham, presiding with Justice Kennedy and Justice Una Ni Raifeartaigh reserved judgment and will give their decision at a later date.