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29/07/2021

State agencies missed opportunities to protect victims of 'brutal' child abuse

State agencies missed opportunities to protect victims of 'brutal' child abuse

A woman who was repeatedly raped by her father as a child has described the man as “a devil wearing a mask” and said he lived like a king while she was made “feel like dirt”.

The now 34-year-old woman, who became pregnant by her father when she was 17, described in her victim impact statement that every day with her father felt like “a fight to survive”.

On Tuesday Mr Justice Michael White said that opportunities were missed by various State agencies to protect the children because of the lack of communication between the agencies.

The court heard that in 2004 when the girl became pregnant, social welfare services were made aware of the abuse and contacted the man. As a result of this contact the man beat the child “savagely”.

There were no other intervention from authorities until 2015 when the victim again went to gardaí, the court heard.

Describing the 16 years of abuse of the woman and her older sister as “brutal and terrifying”, Justice White jailed their father, now aged 63, for 16 years.

He said the man’s continued sexual abuse and rape of his children was carried out “without any thought or concern for his daughters and was accompanied by violence, neglect and deliberate cruelty”

Mr Justice White addressed the women directly during his sentencing remarks and said he wished to “pay tribute to their courage” and said he hoped they find some peace and enjoyment of life in the future.

The man had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to sample charges of rape, oral rape and sexual assault of both women on dates between 1990 and 2004 which represented 105 charges on the indictment.

He admitted six charges of sexual assault, nine charges of oral rape and nine charges of rape against the younger woman and two charges of indecent assault and five charges of rape against his older daughter.

The younger woman said the abuse began when she was seven years old and occurred three or more times per week until she was 18, while her sister said it first began when she was nine years old and ended when she was 16. She was later raped on a daily basis.

The younger woman became pregnant by her father at 17 years old, while her older sister said she was raped by her father while she was pregnant. She said during that rape he stamped on her stomach and told her he would beat her unborn child out of her.

The court heard that the women were two of 12 children in the Travelling Community family who lived a nomadic way of life along with their parents moving around the country but primarily settling for short periods in Louth and Galway. The court heard that a total of 32 town lands were identified as locations of the abuse.

The younger woman’s victim impact statement, which was read into the record by Shane Costelloe SC prosecuting stated that her father was the person who was supposed to provide warmth, care and support but instead he stole her childhood.

She said that he made her feel that “every single day was a fight to survive” and said he had denied her the experience of raising her own daughter, referring to the fact that when she gave birth her parents took her daughter from her and raised the child as their own.

“My first-born daughter will sadly remind me of the man who caused torment in my life but I will not let this overcome my love for my daughter,” the woman continued.

She said she experienced “unmerciful sexual abuse” and said her father was “only a façade” describing the man as a “devil wearing a mask”.

“Where is the dignity that I deserved?” the woman asked as she described living in a caravan with her siblings beside her parents’ caravan. She said they were restricted basic human rights such as food and water and said the man would lock food away and there was dirt everywhere.

“You were living as a king beside us,” the woman said before she described her father beating them until “we ran out of blood and tears” saying they only ever “felt pain” and “never felt love”.

The family were known to the Health Service Executive “as living in depravation and poverty” and Mr Costelloe told the court that when they came to the attention of the authorities, “the solution was to up sticks and move again”.

“Information was not communicated across the county boundaries to the relevant authorities and opportunities to assist the children were missed” counsel said. He said that material relating to the family runs to many thousands of pages.

The abuse came to the attention of gardaí in 2015 when the younger victim contacted them and said her father was the father of her child who she had given birth to ten years earlier. The baby was taken from her immediately by her parents who brought up her daughter as their own and the victim was concerned for her child’s safety.

She made 19 statements to the gardaí and her older sister came forward during the course of the garda investigation.

The older woman, who has a mild learning difficult, described first being raped by her father on her 13th birthday. She said instead of her father giving her a birthday present he took her to the bed she shared with her siblings and raped her.

She told gardaí her father regularly used washing up liquid as a lubricant and described the rapes as occurring on a daily basis.

The woman told gardaí that she was once raped while pregnant and her father stood on her stomach and told her he would beat the unborn child out of her.

She said in her statement that her father had brought her into this world and said her “body is torn apart by the years of you raping me”. She described feeling destroyed and suffering from depression, anxiety and fear saying that she cried a lot to get

“I look forward to when the weight of this case is over and I can breathe better, with the help of my family,” the woman concluded.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, submitted that the “largest mitigating factor” was his client's guilty pleas which he hoped would bring some closure to his daughters. He said alcohol played a significant role in the man’s life and he had no education.

Counsel said his client acknowledges the “enormity of the horror he has done” and “the strength and fortitude exhibited by his daughters”.

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