A man who “preyed” on a seven-year-old girl “in a shameful manner” and raped her has been jailed for ten years and six months.
The 53-year-old was found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of one count of rape and 12 counts of sexual assault earlier this year.
The offending occurred on unknown dates between September 21, 2012, and September 6, 2013, when the victim was seven years old, at a house in Co Wexford.
The defendant was living at the same address as the girl’s father. The abuse occurred when the girl, now aged 17, visited the house at weekends.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, does not accept the jury’s verdict.
Imposing sentence on Tuesday, Ms Justice Karen O’Connor said the man had “preyed on a young child in a shameful manner”.
She said the victim was staying in the place where her father lived, and this should have been a place of “safety and security” for her.
She said the accused had threatened the girl and “groomed her” in a “despicable way” using chocolate.
Ms Justice O’Connor noted the man is entitled not to accept the jury’s verdict; however, this means the mitigation of a guilty plea is not available to him.
She imposed a sentence of ten years and six months on the man in relation to the rape charge and seven years and six months in respect of the sexual assault charges. The sentences are to run concurrently and were backdated to July 18, 2021, when the man went into custody.
At an earlier sentence hearing, a local garda said the girl told her mother about the abuse in 2019 and later made a disclosure to a guidance counsellor. She was interviewed by specialist gardaí in December 2020, when she was then aged 15.
The court heard that on one occasion, the man called the girl into his room, where he gave her a Kinder Egg. He then grabbed her and raped her. He also threatened the girl and told her in one incident that something would happen to her if she said anything to her parents.
The girl’s victim impact statement was read to the court by the prosecuting counsel. The girl said the man’s offending had “ruined” her childhood and teenage years. She said she has suffered from anxiety, depression and self-harm.
She said she is scared of every man who crosses her path in the dark and it will take many years for her to live her life to the fullest.
The girl said she was “scared to say anything to anyone in case things got worse” and that she stopped going to her father’s house as she was afraid. She said she didn’t give him an explanation at that time and her father thought she didn’t want to see him, adding that he was “distraught” when he was told the real reason.
Ms Justice O’Connor said the girl had presented in court as a “person of great strength”. The judge said that by making the complaint and following it through, she would help other children who may be in a similar situation by showing them that they are not alone. She wished the victim well for the future.
The man denied any wrongdoing when he was interviewed following his arrest in December 2020. He has been in custody since July 2021, when he was charged. He has one previous conviction for murder in another jurisdiction, for which he received a prison sentence.
The investigating garda agreed with Maurice Coffey SC, defending, that his client has no previous convictions of a sexual nature. He also accepted that the man moved to Ireland in 2012 and co-operated with this investigation.
Mr Coffey told the court that his instructions were that a man was stabbed during the course of a dispute and his client served ten years of a 13-year prison sentence.
Counsel said his client has a good work history in Ireland and is doing well in custody and taking English lessons. Mr Coffey asked the court to take into consideration the difficulties of serving a prison sentence for a foreign national.