Munster abuse trial: Sentences imposed on family members too lenient, State argues

Counsel for the State tells Court of Appeal rape and sexual exploitation of young children should be considered at top level of seriousness

The State has argued that sentences of between nine and 15 years that were imposed on three family members jailed as part of the Munster abuse trial, in what was described by a judge as a case of “sheer horror” featuring the rape and sexual exploitation of young children, were too lenient.

“You can in some cases consider life in prison, and that is how bad this case was,” said counsel for the State Bernard Condon SC, bringing the appeals before the Court of Appeal on Thursday on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The victims’ father (59) was convicted of rape, sexual exploitation, sexual assault, and child cruelty, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Mr Justice Paul McDermott at the Central Criminal Court in January 2022. Their mother (37) was convicted of sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and child cruelty, and was sentenced to nine years in prison. And their uncle (51) was convicted of rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The offences occurred between August 2014 and April 2016, starting when three of the victims – a young girl and her two brothers – were aged five, six and seven.


Reporting restrictions put in place by the trial judge, preventing the publication of the exact nature of the abuse the children suffered to protect their welfare and identities, remain in place.

Mr Condon referenced the “astonishing features” of the case, saying that a headline sentence of 16 years had been set in the case of the victims’ father and uncle respectively, but the sentencing court ought to have considered this offending at the top level of seriousness.

Concerning the offences inflicted on the children for years, which had a catastrophic effect on them, Mr Condon said that there was “barely a feature of aggravation that is missing” from this case.

The court heard that the children have since been taken into care by the State.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said that as this case involved multiple offences of a sexual nature, there would be very little mitigation even when the respondent had no previous convictions.

In the case of the victims’ uncle, Mr Condon said that the man was “a central player in the abuse”, who raped two of the children and sexually abused all three.

Concerning the mother of the victims, Mr Condon said that a headline sentence of 12 years had been set, but there was then a reduction of 25 per cent for mitigation, which the State said was excessive.

Mr Condon said that the trial judge had considered that for the sexual assaults she committed, the starting point for sentencing should be the same as her husband, but the judge had gone on to say that the dynamic in the offending had not been driven by her.

Mr Condon said that all aggravating features were present in the mother’s case. He said that her involvement was at the top end of the scale, not the middle, so a 12-year headline sentence was too low.

Mr Justice John Edwards noted that she had no previous convictions and had led a very difficult early life, which featured a lot of physical chastisement, so there was some mitigation there.

Mark Nicholas SC, defence counsel for the father, said that this was a serious case, but the trial judge, having listened to the evidence, quite correctly set the right zone for the headline sentence. He said there was no suggestion of any offending by the father up to 2014, while a lengthy prison sentence would affect the father greater than it would a younger man.

Defence counsel for the uncle, Andrew Sexton SC, said that the trial judge had indicated that the sentence imposed reflected the seriousness of the offences, as he had addressed the matter carefully and methodically before coming to his conclusion.

Child victim in Munster abuse case says his parents should go to jail ‘for a long time’Opens in new window ]

While the trial judge had set a headline sentence of 16 years, Mr Sexton said that the judge had also imposed probation supervision for three years, which was a feature of the overall sentence. Pointing out that the offending occurred over not quite two years, Mr Sexton said that there was not a litany of violent behaviour in this case, to which Mr Justice Edwards said that “rape is an inherently violent act”.

Mr Sexton said that his client had led a blameless life up to that point, and he had a history of ill health, although counsel accepted that there was limited evidence of that.

Dean Kelly SC, defending the mother, said that the judge who heard the case was by some distance the most experienced trial judge in the State, and the dynamic of the offending had not been driven by the victims’ mother.

Mr Justice Edwards noted the “sheer horror” of this case, while Ms Justice Kennedy said that there had been “a gross breach of trust”.

Mr Justice Edwards said that the court would reserve judgment in the case.