Man who abducted girl in Laois gets 17-year sentence

Boy (10) clung to window of moving 4x4 to rescue his older sister

Michael Martin, who abducted an 11-year-old girl. Photogaph: James Flynn/APX

Michael Martin, who abducted an 11-year-old girl. Photogaph: James Flynn/APX


A man who attempted to abduct a young girl in Laois has been sentenced to 17 years in prison, with the final four years suspended.

Michael Martin (36) – with an address at Shandon Court, Yellow Road, Waterford city – admitted to the false imprisonment of an 11 year-old girl at Cullohill in Co Laois on March 4th.

Portlaoise Circuit Court heard Mr Martin had 92 previous convictions at the time of the offence.

The crime occurred when twin brothers, aged 10, were playing with their 11-year-old sister in Cullohill. Mr Martin approached and, after starting a conversation, grabbed the girl “by her waist and put her feet first into the jeep through the driver’s door, depositing her on the front passenger seat,” explained Judge Keenan Johnson.

The girl struggled and kicked and her 10-year-old brother jumped on to the driver’s side of the jeep. He “continued to tackle the accused and to distract him. He was punching at the accused as he got into the driver’s seat,” said Judge Johnson.

The boy “clung to the driver’s door and continued to punch the accused while he attempted to move the vehicle. He was literally dangling from the jeep as the accused attempted to leave.”

With the driver distracted, the girl managed to escape. Judge Johnson said the boy’s “natural instinct to protect his sister swung into action once he saw the danger she was in.

He was extremely brave and showed great presence of mind, maturity beyond his years and leadership.”

The children now live in the US and Judge Johnson noted, “the shocking irony of this case is the fact that Ireland would be executed to provide a safe environment for children.”

He added, “thankfully cases of this nature are uncommon in Ireland”.

He praised the actions of the children, the gardaí for their quick co-ordinated response and the local community who helped in the investigation.

Judge Johnson said that Martin, a father of two originally from Dublin, had presented at psychiatric services two weeks before the offence.

Having read a detailed forensic psychological report on the accused, Judge Johnson concluded that Martin was at high risk of re-offending. The report, he explained, “makes for disturbing reading.”

He said “the accused’s background is both chaotic and unhappy”.

Among a number of bereavements was “the death of his first girlfriend by suicide, while she was pregnant with their child.”

On another occasion he witnessed the death of a playmate, who died after falling into a septic tank. The deaths resulted in Martin suffering chronic post traumatic stress disorder.

Judge Johnson said the accused has difficulty empathising with the victims of his crimes and struggles to control his emotions. His GP referred to Martin as having a mild mental handicap in a letter from 1996.

The court was told of the importance of a structure in order to manage the release of Martin.

This is “to ensure that not only are his best interests served, but also that society is protected from any repeat of this criminal behaviour,” he explained.

Martin was sentenced to 17 years in prison with the final four suspended for five years on a number of conditions. The conditions included that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour, be under the supervision of the probation services, that he co-operates with the directions of mental health services and prior to release that he engages with the ‘Building Better Lives’ programme at Arbour Hill.

Judge Johnson also recommend the accused be appropriately psychologically assessed prior to release.