Defence Forces non-commissioned officer given seven years for sexual abuse

Army sergeant who held ‘trusted position in our family’ assaulted wife’s niece across six years

An Army sergeant who sexually abused his wife’s young niece over six years has been jailed for seven years.

Anthony Canning (74) of Fadden, Carrig, Birr, Co Offaly, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to two charges of indecent assault, three charges of sexual assault and one charge of oral rape of Celine Daly on dates between December 21st, 1987, and December 1993.

James Dwyer SC, prosecuting, said that Ms Daly, who was between seven and 13 years old at the time of the offences, wished to waive her anonymity in the case so Canning could be named.

Canning, who was married to Ms Daly’s aunt, was between 37 and 43 years old during the abuse, which took place in his home.

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Ms Daly read her victim impact statement which said: “I stand before you not as a victim but as a survivor. I may become emotional, but that is because I am finally being heard.” She described her home as happy and safe and that she did “not know fear, but that changed when I was seven”.

She said the defendant was in a “trusted position in our family” and “you used this position to gain access to me”.

The woman concluded by saying: “I can now see that I played no part in this and that it was not my fault but yours. I finally feel that I can be heard and believed. The night I spoke to the gardaí changed my life. I hope now you feel the shame and guilt I have lived with all my life.”

Mr Justice Tony Hunt said Ms Daly’s victim impact statement spoke “squarely and directly” as to the long-term effects of sexual abuse but also the “positive impact” of making a disclosure to gardaí.

He set a headline sentence of 10 years, taking into account the age disparity between Canning and Ms Daly and the fact that the abuse occurred in what was “effectively an extension of her home”, adding that a child should feel safe visiting the home of a relative.

Mr Justice Hunt acknowledged Canning’s previous good employment record and lack of previous convictions before he imposed a seven-year jail term on the offence of oral rape.

Ms Daly disclosed the abuse to a friend as a young teenager when she was staying over in their house. It was later reported to the gardaí and Canning was ultimately taken in for questioning in April 2021.

Canning told gardaí that he had spent his childhood in an orphanage and had served in the Defence Forces, having gone on four tours of duty in Lebanon.

He initially denied the allegations but later admitted that he had touched Ms Daly. He claimed he did not touch her sexually. Canning was due to stand trial in February this year but pleaded guilty before a jury was selected.