Judgement on sentence next week in abuse case

The Court of Criminal Appeal has further adjourned the sentence appeal of a Laois man convicted of the repeated rape and sexual assault of his daughter over a ten year period.

The Court of Criminal Appeal has further adjourned the sentence appeal of a Laois man convicted of the repeated rape and sexual assault of his daughter over a ten year period.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2006, after pleading guilty to 32 charges of rape and sexual assault against his daughter, beginning when she was just seven years old.

Mr Justice Paul Carney ordered that the life sentence run consecutively to a 20-year prison term already imposed on the man for sexually abusing three other girls between 1975 and 1984. Five of the offences against his daughter were committed whilst he was on bail awaiting trial for these earlier charges.

In October last year, the Court of Criminal Appeal set aside the life sentence imposed by Mr Justice Carney, having found that the judge fell into error by believing he was constrained to impose a consecutive life sentence.

Counsel for the applicant, Mr Michael O’Higgins SC, said that the abuse did not represent the worse case imaginable and said it could be “oversimplifying the issue” to automatically place such an incidence of a father abusing his daughter in the most serious category.

Mr O’Higgins said that the man’s abuse of his daughter whilst on bail for other charges of sexual abuse was not a matter of “bloody-mindedness” but the continuation of a pattern of offending behaviour followed by the man since he was 15 years old.

Mr O’Higgins stated that the man had expressed remorse in counselling and added that the offence should be seen as “out of character” in respect of the other aspects of his personality, which were otherwise decent and hard-working.

He added that the man suffered with neurological problems which made his sentence more onerous than for an able-bodied person. He also reminded the court that the applicant will be 60 before he commences serving his sentence for the abuse of his daughter.

Counsel for the State, Mr Paul Greene SC, said that society’s view of the offence was a significant factor to take in to consideration when reviewing the sentence imposed.

Mr Greene said the fact that the man had continued to abuse his daughter whilst awaiting trial on sexual abuse offences was a significant aggravating factor and reminded the court that he proffered a guilty plea at a late stage.

The presiding judge, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, said that the appeal court would reserve judgement until next week.