Rape victims awarded record €4.7m


Two women whom a High Court jury found had been repeatedly raped and sexually abused when they were schoolgirls by a neighbour, described in court as “a monster” and “an evil paedophile”, have been awarded a record €4.7 million in damages.

A €4 million award was made to Jacqueline O’Toole, who told the jury she became pregnant at 15 after being raped by Joseph Carrick. She had given her daughter, whom she named Edel, up for adoption hours after giving birth and had not seen her since.

A nun involved in the adoption treated her “like I was nothing”, she said. Not a day goes by that she does not think about her daughter, she added. A jury found Ms O’Toole was sexually assaulted and raped by Carrick and awarded her damages of €2.5 million, plus aggravated damages of €1.5 million.

A €700,000 award was made by another jury to Geraldine Nolan (nee Forbes) after it found she was raped and sexually assaulted by Carrick. The award included general damages of €500,000 and €200,000 aggravated damages.

Carrick, now 72, of Carysfort Woods, Blackrock, Co Dublin, did not defend either action.

Asset freeze

After the awards were made, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne granted an application on behalf of the women for orders freezing accounts and assets of Carrick below €5 million. The judge was told the assets included the family home, and properties in Dublin’s south inner city, Stepaside and Saggart in Co Dublin, and Wexford.

In separate actions, two juries found both women had been raped and sexually assaulted by Carrick, formerly with an address at Creighton Street in Dublin’s city centre, when they were schoolgirls. The assaults began in the early 1970s.

Richard Lyons SC, representing the women, who are cousins and have been friends since childhood, said they were “systematically raped and dominated by this monster”. Counsel said that what Carrick, an “evil paedophile”, had put them through during their childhood was “beyond comprehension” and had devastated their lives.

In the separate actions, presided over by Ms Justice Dunne, Ms Nolan and Ms O’Toole said that on many occasions between 1970 and 1973, they were raped and indecently assaulted by Carrick, who was then a fellow member of a local church choir.

Medical evidence was given that both woman suffered post-traumatic stress as a result of the assaults.

Both women were 12 when the rapes began, the jury was told. They said Carrick would take them, separately, to his office at Eden Quay where he would sexually assault and rape them.

Ms O’Toole, Pearse Street, Dublin, said she was first raped by Carrick after he offered her a lift home in his car from Sunday Mass. The rape occurred at his place of work and Carrick told her afterwards not to tell anyone, saying no one would believe her, she said.

When she was 15, she became pregnant by Carrick. When she told Carrick she was expecting a child, she said he told her not to tell anyone about his involvement and the rapes ceased after that.

Ms O’Toole said her family discovered she was pregnant the day she went into labour.

Geraldine Nolan, a mother of five, from Townsend Street, Dublin, said Carrick had “stolen her childhood”. Ms Nolan said she knew Carrick from the choir and originally thought he was a nice man as he was a cousin of her father.

She told the jury she was first raped by Carrick in 1970 after he took her to his home in Creighton Street. She said he showed her a graphic pornographic film before raping her and afterwards laughed at her.

Every four to six weeks, on Sundays after Mass, he would drive her to his office and rape her, she said. She was also sexually assaulted in his car. As she got older, she felt able to refuse his advances and the abuse stopped in 1973.

A statement on behalf of the women was read outside court: “We have found this journey very difficult but worthwhile because we have experienced a form of justice against our perpetrator. Our thoughts go out to those who haven’t been able to make this journey with us.”

Securing damages will be a huge task

ANALYSIS:The €4 million award to Jacqueline O’Toole is the highest made to date at the High Court for rape and sexual abuse.

While serious issues remain about the practicalities of rape and abuse victims recovering damages from some abusers, it is open to victims who secure damages to seek freezing orders over bank accounts, as secured in yesterday’s case, and various charging orders over any assets.

Concerns about the practicalities of recovering damages were highlighted just last week when a €2.8 million award, the second highest, was made by another jury. That award was made to Marcella Breslin (31), Killybegs, Co Donegal, against her godfather Patrick Gillespie (54), Carrickmagrath, Ballybofey, Co Donegal, over rape and sexual abuse inflicted by him on Ms Breslin between the ages of 12 and 16.

Afterwards, solicitors for Ms Breslin stressed the difficulties of recovering damages.

In July 2010, another High Court jury awarded some €2.5 million in damages to a woman over “appalling” sexual abuse inflicted by her brother in Co Dublin. The abuse began when she was aged four and her brother was about six or seven years older. It continued for eight years. Neither party could be named in that case for legal reasons. Mr Justice Éamon de Valera observed the €2.5 million award was a record award for child sex abuse, with the previous highest award about €1 million.

Other cases seeking damages for rape and/or sexual abuse heard before High Court judges sitting without juries resulted in individual awards ranging from €85,000 to €600,000. - MARY CAROLAN