Man jailed for sex abuse of niece 20 years after admitting offences to gardaí

Court hears uncle made admissions in 1997 but girl’s mother did not allow gardaí speak to her

A 68-year-old man has been jailed in Cork today for 18 months for sexual crimes against his niece. She only learned three years ago that he had admitted the abuse more than 20 years ago but was never prosecuted because her mother refused to allow gardaí to interview her.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork to one count of attempting to rape the child and 19 counts of indecent or sexual assault, mainly in the late 1980s, when the girl was aged between seven and 10 .

Det Garda Brian Morris of the West Cork Protective Services Unit said the abuse, which occurred in a number of locations, saw the accused touch the child's vagina and masturbate himself while other sexual assaults happened when he put her on his lap when driving to a shop to buy her ice-cream.

The most serious offence consisted of attempted rape where he removed all of her clothing and lay her down on his coat in a field and attempted to have full sexual intercourse with the child. He stopped when the victim said it was hurting her, he said.


Det Garda Morris said the woman came forward and made a complaint to gardaí about her uncle in 2019. Gardai arrested and questioned him at the start of 2020 and he admitted the attempted rape and all the counts of both indecent and sexual assault.

“He informed gardaí that in 1997 he confessed to gardaí he abused her. The file from 1997 was retrieved from archives. Back in 1997 he does admit sexually abusing (victim’s name) and attempting to have full vaginal sex. In that interview he described her as a kind, innocent and vulnerable child.”

Det Garda Morris told the court that the defendant told the child that what he was doing to her was their “little secret” and he made her promise not to tell anyone about the abuse but he later admitted sexually assaulting the girl when he was interviewed by gardaí about other offences.

“When he made this admission in 1997, she would have been 16. Unknown to (victim’s name) until very recently, gardaí approached her mother (about these allegations) and she refused to give gardaí permission to interview her,” said Det Garda Morris.

When the accused made the admission to gardaí and to the child’s mother, he was prosecuted for sexual abuse of three other injured parties and he was sentenced to four years in prison for those offences when he pleaded guilty to them at Cork Circuit Criminal Court in 1999.

The injured party said: “His guilty plea means nothing to me… I hope he gets the maximum sentence possible.” She also spoke of how hard it was to attend family occasion over the years, at which the accused was also present, and that she felt she had to smile “but inside I wanted to die.”

Defence counsel Roisín Lacey SC submitted at an earlier hearing that it was no fault of the accused that he was not prosecuted 30 years ago for these offences along with the other sexual offences but if that had occurred then, it was likely that he would have received a similar concurrent sentence.

Ms Lacey said the accused had been exposed to violence in his childhood and had a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. In a letter written by the accused, he said there was not a day that passed when he did not regret his actions.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Michael McGrath said that he had to consider the issue of proportionality in terms of the sentence while he also said he had to consider the significant lifelong harm suffered by the injured party as a result of the abuse by her uncle.

He noted how much the man had engaged with rehabilitation and his appreciation of the damage he had done and in one report, he observed that one could talk about excusing of a crime like theft but that no excuse could be made for sexual offences against “a kind, innocent vulnerable child.”

In a report from a psychologist in relation to the defendant’s sexual offences against the child, it was noted that “he was overpowered by his own emotions at the time” while both the psychologist and a probation officer felt he was at a low risk of re-offending.

Mr Justice McGrath noted in the course of a lengthy address to the court that the circumstances in which the accused was now before the court were “extremely unusual if not unique” as he sentenced the accused to four years in jail but suspended the final two and a half years.

The defendant cannot be identified in this case as it could lead to the identification of the injured party in this case or the victims of the other sexual offences he committed in the 1990s for which he was sentenced in 1999.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times