A 29-year-old Laois man has been sentenced to two and half years in prison for sexually abusing his niece over a four-year period.
The injured party was aged between five and nine at the time, with the abuse taking place at locations in Laois between 2002 and 2006. The girl was four years old when the offending started, and the accused was 14.
The man pleaded not guilty at the circuit court in July, and was found guilty on six counts of sexual assault by the jury after trial.
On a number of occasions the accused kissed the girl on the lips, forcibly putting his tongue in her mouth, and he placed her hand inside his trousers onto his private parts.
On another occasion, he sexually assaulted her in a field behind her family home, getting her to stroke his penis.
Another incident took place in the home after a hurling match, when the accused got the girl to touch his penis while her touched her private parts inside her clothing.
The sixth incident, which Judge Keenan Johnson described as the most serious, occurred when the accused brought the girl to a bedroom and after kissing her and forcing his tongue through her lips, he put her hands down his trousers and ejaculated onto her hand.
The accused had previous convictions, including road traffic, public order, and criminal damage. There was also a burglary charge against him, which was still due before the district court.
In a victim impact statement, the now 19-year-old injured party said:
“It has taken over my life. For eight years it was my secret... I felt different from everyone else, I was living a lie to my parents.
“He was my uncle, he should have been protecting me. It was like someone died, it killed mammy and daddy,” she said.
She said that that day she lost her granddad and two cousins, as they didn’t believe her.
She said that the trial was the worst feeling she’d ever had in her life and she hoped she’d never again have to see the steps of the courthouse.
“I feared not being believed, but I opened up and I was believed,” she said.
“If you were abused you are not alone and know that there is always light at the end of it… I am living, I am in control, there is no more fright.”
She said she had been to counselling about ten times, and thanked the judge and the jury for believing her.
“What happened to me, I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” she said.
When the case returned to the circuit court for sentencing in December, Judge Johnson said that the victim deserved enormous credit for having the strength and resilience to see the matter through. He said the abuse involved a serious breach of trust on the part of the accused.
“She can now hold her head high and know that she was believed. Likewise, her parents need to understand that absolutely no blame attaches to them for what happened to their daughter,” said the judge.
Judge Johnson said he was very impressed by the injured party’s statement and commended her as being very brave to have given evidence.
“This is the last thing you want within a family and it causes enormous difficulties, but the family need to accept that he has been found guilty,” he said.
The judge remanded the accused in custody for one week to consider a probation report on the accused and testimonials which were handed in.
When the case returned to the circuit court the following week, Judge Johnson said the abuse had involved the exploitation of a weak and defenceless victim.
He noted that while out on bail for these offences the accused had committed an offence of criminal damage on September 4. The accused pleaded guilty to this offence, but later alleged he did not commit it. The judge noted that the accused’s attitude to that offence was similar to his attitude in respect of the sexual assaults, with him still maintaining his innocence.
Given that the accused had continued to deny committing the assaults, Judge Johnson said there was little that the court could do to encourage his rehabilitation.
Judge Johnson imposed a sentence of two years and six months, backdated to the date the accused went into custody.