Man jailed for 15 years for raping seven-year-old niece

Sonya Stokes: ‘His sick twisted mind stole my innocence forever’

A man who was jailed in the early 1970s for indecently assaulting a young girl has been jailed for 15 years for raping his seven-year-old niece a decade later.

Joseph Hogan (61) of Rose Court, Keyes Park, Limerick city, raped and sexually assaulted the child when she was aged between seven and eleven.

After a trial last month a jury at the Central Criminal Court convicted him of one count of attempted rape, three counts of rape and three counts of indecent assault at a house in Co Limerick between December 1984 and December 1988. He had pleaded not guilty to the counts.

Paul Greene SC, prosecuting told the court that the victim, Sonya Stokes (37), is waving "her entitlement to anonymity".

Mr Justice Paul Carney declared Hogan a sex offender and said "the two most fruitful sources of mitigation, a plea of guilty coupled with genuine remorse and previous good character" are unavailable to him.

Mr Justice Carney said the rape offence “merited” 15 years in jail and imposed 10 years for the attempted rape and eight years for the sexual assault counts. All sentences are to run concurrently.

In a victim impact report, read into the court in the presence of Ms Stokes, she said Hogan had stolen her childhood from her. She said: “His sick twisted mind stole my innocence forever, my childhood, my teenage years, my dignity, my trust in relationships”.

The court heard that in 1973 Hogan was jailed here for six months for an indecent assault of a similar nature. In 1974 he was convicted in the UK for the indecent assault of a girl aged under 14 years of age. He returned to Ireland from the UK with his wife and they had a number of children. In 1995 and 1998 Hogan was convicted for indecent assaults committed after the abuse of Ms Stokes. Additionally he was jailed for 22 months in March 2013 for breaches of orders under the Sex Offenders Act by living in houses with children in 2007 and 2009.

Hogan first raped his niece sometime in 1984 after placing her on a washing machine in a utility room in his home. Other rapes took places in the living room while there was a baby in the house and in an outdoor shed.

He molested her while she was in a bath with other children in the same bathtub. In one incident the child was asleep in her aunt’s bed with her aunt and other children in the room. Hogan came home and got into the bed and molested her. He blocked her mouth with his hand and he tried to force himself on her.

He only stopped when his wife woke up and told him to stop.

Ms Stokes said she suffers flashbacks, stress and anxiety as a result of the abuse. “I feel so cold and lost. I cry for the pain and hurt he caused. I have tears locked inside that could probably fill an ocean.”

She said that hearing the jury return a verdict of guilty was “like a tonne of bricks lifted from my heart”.

In imposing sentence Mr Justice Carney said he was taking into account the breach of trust involved in the case, the “inherent gravity” of the crime, the period over which it extended, the multiplicity of charges, the impact on the victim, “her age at the time and the disparity in age between the two”. He said he found “nothing of substance in favour of him” to allow him “to discount” the sentence and ordered that he carry out 18 months post release supervision.

Speaking outside court Ms Stokes said: “It feels great because now I know that no other child will actually be raped or abused by this man. Over 35 or 40 years this man has got away with abusing so many children. This is why I waived my rights (to anonymity) because for all these years he’s been put behind bars and he’s never been named and shamed.

“Any other child that is out there that has been abused or raped, I think they should really come forward and not let anyone else cut them down for what has happened to them. They’re the innocent ones. They’re not the sex offender.”

Asked how she feels about her decision to go public with the abuse: “I would highly recommend anyone else out there to please come forward. Don’t let this ruin the rest of your life or brush it under the carpet like many people have done for so many years. I really think you should come forward. Don’t be afraid. Don’t let anyone else put other words into your mouth for years and hide it. Come forward. ”

Ms Stokes went on to thank the gardaí and officers in the UK, Mr Justice Carney, the Victim Support Officers and Hogan’s other victims.