‘This is the justice nine-year-old me deserves’: Karen Harkin speaks after father jailed for rape

‘Feelings of guilt and shame are my father’s to carry, not mine,’ she said after his jailing for rape and sexual assault

“Children should be loved, not abused,” a young woman said after her father was sentenced to 11 years with six months suspended for raping and sexually assaulting her over a four-year period.

Karen Harkin (22) was speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin on Tuesday shortly after Ms Justice Karen O’Connor of the Central Criminal Court jailed Michael Carter (55) for one count of rape and 25 sample counts of sexual assault. The abuse began when Ms Harkin was nine-years-old and stopped one day short of her 13th birthday.

Carter had pleaded not guilty in the case and said he does not accept the jury’s verdict. He stood stony faced facing the judge as his sentence was read out, while Ms Harkin sat in court surrounded by her family and other supporters. The trial heard the crimes occurred while Ms Harkin visited her father’s house after her parents separated.

In her victim impact statement, Ms Harkin had said she used to enjoy visiting her father’s house but that “everything in her life changed” once the abuse began.


Speaking to journalists outside the court building, Ms Harkin, who is from Buncrana, Co Donegal, said she was relieved justice had finally been served.

“I feel that the sentence today reflects the crime that my father committed. He stole my childhood from me in such a malicious way, a childhood that I will never get back. Even though I get no satisfaction from my father going to prison today, I know that this is the justice that nine-year-old me deserves. This is what I have to do for me.”

Standing with her sisters and other members of the family, Ms Harkin said she was finally able to free herself from the guilt that consumed her for so many years.

“I am here today not only for myself but for everyone else out there that has suffered or is suffering from abuse. Please know that you are not alone, you will be believed, as long as you can trust in one family member, a friend, the gardaí, just know that you will be okay. I hope that speaking out will help end the stigma that is associated with these type of crimes today.”

Her hands shaking as she read from a prepared script on her phone, she said she wanted to thank everyone who has stood by her, including her family, friends, the gardaí, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, her barrister and legal team.

“I am so grateful for the support you have shown me every day. Today marks the day that I will start this new chapter in my life. I will no longer imprison myself in the feelings of guilt and shame that are not mine to carry. These feelings are my father’s and my father’s only.”

When handing down sentence, Ms Justice O’Connor noted how Ms Harkin had disclosed the abuse to her aunt in 2016 and contact was made with gardaí. By 2018, Ms Harkin felt she was in a position to make a statement, and did so. When approached, her father denied the allegation, saying “I never done anything wrong against my daughter.”

Praising the eloquent language used by Ms Harkin in her victim impact statement, Ms Justice O’Connor said the abuse had caused Ms Harkin to go from being a “straight A student” to not initially being able to sit her Leaving Certificate exams because of her loss of confidence.

She was, the judge said, “an incredibly strong young woman” and would no doubt continue to receive the wonderful support she had received to date. The judge wished her well.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent