Families have a duty to report sex abuse, says judge

Decision by grandparents not to alert gardaí or social services to abuse ‘was a grave error’

A judge has said the message must go out that people are responsible for reporting sexual abuse within the family as soon as they learn of it.

Mr Justice Robert Eagar made the remarks in the Central Criminal Court as he jailed a man for 18 months for raping and sexually abusing his cousin from when he was 12 and she was 6. The judge noted the girl's family and extended family became aware of the abuse in 2007 when she was eight years old.

He said the decision of the family, and particularly her grandparents, not to alert the gardaí­ or social services “was a grave error.”

The court heard the accused’s father had rung a family recourse centre for “advice” on how to make his son stop abusing the girl but this was never followed up on.


Mr Justice Eager said the family would have to take responsibility for the girls suffering, including self-harm and suicide attempts, which became particularly bad when she hit puberty. The court heard she eventually went to gardaí­ herself when she was 14.

The judge said the family’s failure to report the abuse at the time meant the accused was being dealt with as an adult and faced the full rigour of the law.

“The loud message needs to be sent out that families in these situations must report these matters to the Child and Family Agency and gardaí­ so they can be dealt with at the time,” he said.

Mr Justice Eager said the offences were very serious and if the accused, who is now 23, committed them as an adult he would be facing at least ten years in prison. He also noted that while the man admitted sexual misconduct, he didn’t admit rape.

The judge imposed a five year sentence with the final three and a half years suspended on the condition the accused undergo a sex offenders treatment programme in prison.

The accused wept loudly and clutched rosary beads after the sentence was handed down. He said he wasn’t able to go to prison and threatened to take his own life.

He previously pleaded guilty on the morning of his trial at the Central Criminal Court to sample counts including two charges of sex assault, two charges of rape and two charges of oral rape in Dublin on dates between October 10th 2004 and March 31st 2007.

The now 17-year-old girl took the stand to read her victim impact statement. She said she didn’t realise until she reached puberty how badly he had damaged her.

She said she had scars that would be there forever and she would never finish school.

A local garda told Patrick Gageby SC, prosecuting, that the accused first abused the girl after telling her he wanted to play doctor and instructing her to take of her clothes. They were together in an upstairs bedroom in their grandmother’s house at the time.

The abuse continued on a regular basis when they both visited their grandmother with their extended family every Thursday.

The boy first raped her after crawling under the covers while the girl was in bed pretending to be asleep. The investigating garda said the girl was extremely distressed and “cried silently” during the attack.

She said the accused abused the girl “every opportunity he got” for almost two and half years. She began to realise what was happening was wrong and tried to avoid him.

When she was eight years old she told an older cousin that she had a secret to tell her. This girl then reported the abuse to her own mother, the victim’s aunt, and her parents were informed.

The garda said the abuse was not reported to gardaí­ and the family tried to deal with it themselves.

The victim herself reported it to gardaí­ in June 2013 when she 14 years old.

Blaise O’Carroll SC, defending, said the accused had a sense of shame and guilt. He was now on medication and a probation report stated he was at a low risk of re-offending.

“He is extraordinarily remorseful, deeply regrets that it happened and wishes that it had not happened. He is sorry for the destruction of the family relationships and the suffering he has imposed on his own family,” Mr O’Carroll said.