Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise.
A young woman repeatedly raped by her father has given evidence to the Court of Appeal that she was “manipulated” into visiting him in a Portlaoise prison by his relatives shortly after the trial.
Last February, the 47-year-old man was found guilty of sexually assaulting and raping his daughter in various ways in Co Mayo and abroad on dates between 2006 and 2010 when she was aged between seven and eleven. Their details must not be published to protect the victim’s identity.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the first rape took place shortly after the death of her mother. He referred to her by her dead mother's name and continued to do so during subsequent attacks, the court heard.
Describing his offending as “depraved”, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment with the final year suspended. The man had pleaded not guilty to all offences and continues to maintain his innocence.
The Court of Appeal has heard that the young woman visited her father in the Midlands Prison shortly after the trial.
In an affidavit, the father said he was “overjoyed to see” his daughter at a non-screened visit in the Midlands Prison and that he “did not blame her for what happened”. It was “highly emotional” and his daughter was “at all times affectionate and referred to me as dad”.
“We spoke of all the good times we had together.” He said his daughter hugged him, kissed him and repeatedly said she was sorry.
She allegedly told him, he stated, that ‘I’m going to get you out of here dad; it’s all my fault and it’s going to be alright.’
The victim appeared via video link from the Vulnerable Witness’ Suite in the Criminal Courts of Justice building in Dublin. She told the Court of Appeal that she was “manipulated” into visiting her father in prison by his relatives on the basis that he was starving himself to death and was on his death bed.
Giving evidence to Alex Owens SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, she said her father’s relatives were sending her messages after the trial “making it out that his life was in my hands".
She recalled one message which said: "your dad is going to die and you're the only person who can stop that from happening”. In another message, she was told "your dad has not much time left".
Her father has told the Court of Appeal that he assumed the purpose of her visit was "to say sorry”. In response to this, she said: “why would I say sorry to him. I’ve no reason to say sorry to him.”
She said her father hugged her in the prison visitor’s rooms and that the prison visit lasted 30-40 minutes . "It all happened so fast. I still don't know exactly why I went to visit him.”
"This man believes his children were abducted from him for no reason and they were given drugs by social workers. He asked me to join forces with him and sue the state and it would make me a wealthy woman".
In a subsequent sworn affidavit, she stated “I did not say he was not a rapist” and “I did not say he did not do those things to me”.
Under cross examination from the man’s barrister, Micheál P O’Higgins SC, the woman said she told her father in prison that she would withdraw her statement because she believed he was on his deathbed and would die in prison.
She agreed she said “yes” because at the end of the day, he was her father and “I wanted to believe what happened (the abuse) didn’t happen at all”.
"I cried for the whole [prison visit]. I didn't really talk. I didn't know what I was doing. I couldn't believe it... It wasn't me."
“I went into that prison as one girl and left as the girl I am now.”
"It was my first time in prison. Even though he had been in prison plenty of times when we were young, I didn't visit."
Referring to her father, she told Mr O’Higgins: ”Your client asked me to cancel the charges. I told him I would. Did I? No."
"The fact I'm even back here one year on, losing sleep over your client (her father) I don't know. I've nothing to hide,’ she said to Mr O’Higgins.
When asked if she doubted herself about the abuse, she said: "Of course I doubted myself, I didn't want it to be true but 12 people randomly selected gave me the answer I needed to get on with my life... And here I am again."
She said her father's family were "brainwashing a girl who had just conquered her fear ... brainwashing me to manipulate me".
Mr O’Higgins asked if she was claiming she had been “lured or pressurised” into visiting her father in prison
“There’s proof of that Mr O’Higgins,” she said referring to messages from her father's family.
Mr O’Higgins put it to her that: “the reason you said what you said to various people and the whole fact of you visiting the prison, was entirely consistent with you feeling guilty about having told untruths at the trial.”
She said she had already explained herself.
“When it dawned on you, you may now face exposure to criminal prosecution you decided to recant,’ Mr O’Higgins put it to her.
“I was entirely manipulated,” the victim said.
She said she had "zero recall" of a “three-way” telephone conversation between herself, her father and her father's partner. The phone call was made from prison to the man's partner in Mayo, who was on another phone to the victim. The phone call was made in the days after her prison visit.
A recording of the “three-way” call was subsequently played to the court.
The hearing continues before Mr Justice John Edwards, Ms Justice Máire Whelan and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy later this month.
Under cross examination from Alex Owens SC, for the DPP, the man agreed the prison visit was “an emotional event” which lasted about 35 minutes.
A couple of days prior to the visit, he said it was indicated to him by his partner that his daughter may be coming in to see him.
He denied “absolutely” that the purpose of the meeting was to try to influence his daughter and “pull at her heart strings” to get him out of prison.
"I wanted to see her; I was concerned for her welfare”. He said he was “positive” it wasn’t the other way around.
“You were persuading her to drop everything,” Mr Owens suggested.
“My view of the situation was I didn’t deserve to be in prison,” the man said. “She enquired how she could get me out of there.”
Mr Owens put it to him that his daughter came to see him because she believed he was on hunger strike and on his “last legs”.
"Absolutely not. She came to me because she was full of remorse and guilt". There was "never a hunger strike", he said.
He said there were “various reasons” for her daughter to visit him in prison.
"She told me she was sorry. I told her I forgave her and she was forgiven, that she wasn't at fault.”
When asked what he hoped to achieve from the meeting, he said he “wanted to tell her I forgave her; alleviate the guilt she must be carrying; tell her I love her.”
He said he knew of a proposal for his daughter to go to a solicitor “for the purpose of telling the truth”.
When it was put to him that his daughter denied having taken part in a “three-way” telephone conversation days after the prison visit, he said his daughter was a “pathological liar”.