A Laois man described as “a serial sex offender” has received a one-year prison sentence for the sexual assault of a girl aged between 11 and 12.
The 54-year-old man, who cannot be named, was found guilty on two counts of sexual assault following a trial at Portlaoise Circuit Court.
The first offence occurred between May 1, 1992 and November 30, 1992, when the victim was in fifth class at school and was aged between 11 and 12. The accused was 28 at the time of the offending. The first offence involved the accused calling to the victim’s house and asking her mother if the victim would help him with some farm work.
The accused took the victim in his jeep to a field entrance and while the victim was climbing over the gate the accused placed his hands down her top and fumbled with her breasts.
Following this incident, he gave the victim one pound and told her not to mention the matter to anyone.
The second offence occurred at a farm some miles away. When they arrived the accused requested the victim to get out of the jeep and coaxed her into an outbuilding. While there the accused fondled the victim’s breasts and tried to force her head down onto his erect penis.
The victim resisted this attempt and left the scene to walk home, but the accused followed her in his jeep and coaxed her back into the jeep and left her home. When he left her home he gave her five pounds and again told her not to mention the incident to anybody.
The matter went to trial on two occasions. In the first trial the jury were unable to agree a verdict and the conviction was recorded at the second trial.
In her victim impact statement the woman describes herself as a survivor of sexual assault. She was confused and terrified in equal measure.
At that time the facts of life had not been explained to her and she did not know anything about sex or men’s bodies and how they functioned, but she did know what had happened to her was very strange.
She kept the secret for many years and bottled it up inside and it tortured her. From the age of 14 she suffered from mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
Throughout her life she has felt very vulnerable and easily led and as she got older she struggled to maintain a normal healthy existence. She lost control of her life and had no direction or structure to her day-to-day life.
She disclosed the abuse to her parents when she was 16, but at the time because matters like this tended to be kept secret her parents weren’t equipped to deal with the revelation and the matter continued to remain a secret. Her relationship with her parents suffered as a consequence of their failure to support her when she made the disclosure.
Judge Keenan Johnson said: “She holds no ill feeling towards her late parents and she now appreciates that to a certain extent they were hostages to the values of their time and did not understand the full extent of the damage caused by the type of abuse perpetrated by the accused on their daughter. The victim’s parents were clearly decent people trying to do their best in difficult circumstances.”
She now appreciates that her parents, if they were still alive, would be proud of the steps that she took to seek justice and Judge Johnson said that in that respect she could certainly hold her head high.
The judge also noted that the victim had made reference to that fact that her relationship with her husband had been put under stress as a consequence of the accused’s wrongdoing.
She also said that the process has had an impact on her daughters and siblings and extended family.
Very magnanimously, she also pointed out that she is conscious of the stress and upset the case must have cause to the accused’s family.
Having gone through the court process on two occasions she now feels the experience has done her some good. The judge said she can now have some closure in relation to the matter and get on with her life.
The judge went on to say that: “It is clear that the victim is an extremely competent, articulate, honest and decent person. She has been through a horrible experience at the hands of the accused and that experience unfortunately has been compounded to a certain extent by having to endure two trials which involved her having to give evidence on two separate occasions and be subjected to cross-examination.”
Judge Johnson said that it had often occurred to him that in cases of sexual abuse which are over 30 years of age and where the abuse ranks at the lower end of the scale in offending terms, the possibility of a truth and reconciliation meeting between the victim and perpetrator, which is chaired by a person who is suitably qualified in the area of sexual abuse and its ramifications, might afford a less stressful process which would provide the victim with vindication, while at the same time educating the perpetrator of the negative effects of their offending and providing a roadmap for their rehabilitation.
In sentencing, Judge Johnson said: “The abuse represented a gross breach of trust on the part of the accused The abuse was relatively serious and in particular the second incident which involved an attempt to force the victim to perform oral sex is particularly aggravating.”
The judge said that the payment of money was also considered an aggravating factor as the accused attempted to manipulate a young and vulnerable girl.
Judge Johnson said it was clear the accused targeted the victim because she was young and vulnerable.
The accused knew the victim and her family and he abused the friendship he had with the family and the trust they placed in him, when he perpetrated these offences.
The fact that the accused has previous convictions and was sentenced in 2008 to seven years for sexual assault offences, with a further nine years imposed in November 2018 for sexual assault offences, indicated that the accused was a serial sex offender at the time.
Judge Johnson also said that the accused had been dishonest in his dealings with the probation officer, with the probation officer indicating this suggested that the accused’s deviant sexual preferences and lack of concern for others will increase his risk of reoffending. This was also considered an aggravating factor.
The accused is currently serving a sentence in respect of similar offences, which will expire in March 2024.
Judge Johnson imposed one year in prison, to commence on the expiration of the accused’s current sentence.