A man who abused his 12-year-old step daughter has had the final two years of a 15 year sentence suspended after undertaking to actively engage in therapeutic supports including anger management.
The 32-year-old man, who strangled an ex-girlfriend to death in his native country, was convicted earlier this year by a Central Criminal Court jury of continually beating and twice raping his step daughter. The court heard the man had told the child he would find her and kill her if he went to jail.
Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy had said at a previous sentencing hearing in October that the accused was a "dangerous young man" who was physically powerful and it was in his and society's interest that he address his anger issues. She imposed a 15 year sentence on the accused on that date.
She had indicated that she would consider suspending the final two years if he availed of anger management treatment while in prison and refrained from contacting the victim in perpetuity.
On Friday Ronan Munro SC, defending, told the court that his client was willing to give an undertaking to the court to avail of anger management therapy and actively engage in other therapeutic support available to him, as well as staying away from the victim.
The accused told the court he understood that these conditions would be both conditions of the suspension of the two years and also an undertaking to the court, which if breeched would be a contempt of court, carrying an unlimited period of imprisonment.
The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, was found guilty by a jury on one charge of assault causing harm, six charges of child cruelty involving assault, three charges of sexual assault and two charges of rape on dates between September 2019 and May 2020.
Ms Justice Murphy on Friday suspended the final two years of the sentence on conditions including that he stay away from and not have any contact with the victim in perpetuity; as well as that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour, including during any period of temporary release and for two years after his final release.
A further condition is that he comply with all directions of the probation service in relation to engaging in any steps or course of therapy which facilities rehabilitation while in custody and during the period of the suspension.
A final condition is that he undertake an oath to actively take all reasonable steps to abide by any directions of the probation service and engage in anger management and related therapeutic courses including all psychological supports available while in custody.
Ms Justice Murphy remarked that she hoped services will be made available to him and that it is in everyone interests that they are.
At the original sentence hearing earlier in October, the court heard the accused man served a ten-year term in his native country after he was convicted of killing his former girlfriend and was released from prison on condition that he not leave his home country until January 2022.
He came to Cork in 2019, met the child’s mother and married her two months later. The child had not met the man, as she was away with her father at the time and was introduced to him for the first time at the end of summer 2019 when he had moved into the family home she shared with her mother.
Detective Garda Sheena Dowling of the Divisional Protective Services Unit in Cork told Lorcan Staines SC, prosecuting, that gardaí were called to the family home in May 2020 after a neighbour alerted them to a domestic incident there.
On arrival officers noticed that the child had a cut and bruising to the bridge of her nose and had bruised eyes. Her mother, the accused and the child all claimed that she had sustained the injuries after she had fallen down the stairs.
Gardaí returned to the house that same evening to check on the welfare of the child and one officer spoke to the child alone in the kitchen. She again re-iterated that she had hurt herself having fallen down the stairs, but later rolled up the sleeve of a jumper to reveal a large bruise to her arm.
She admitted the accused man had hurt her and showed the garda further bruising. The girl was taken from the home that evening and put in emergency care. She has not returned since and is now living with an adoptive family.
The garda told Mr Staines that the child was taken to a garda station where she was questioned by specialist garda interviewers. She initially only spoke of a number of incidents of being beaten by the man, but later passed a note to say that she had also been sexually abused.
She was interviewed a second time during which she disclosed three episodes of sexual assault and two incidents of rape by the accused in April 2020.
In her victim impact statement the child thanked the gardai who had come to rescue her and all those who had helped her. “My parents didn’t protect me like they should have,” the girl stated.
Detective Garda Sheena Dowling told Mr Staines that the child was examined by a doctor at the garda station and found to have a suspected broken nose, swollen eyes, a large bruise on her arm, bruises on her outer thigh, two bruises above her knee, one below her knee and more bruises on her legs.
A later follow up medical examination confirmed that she had injuries to her vaginal area consistent with her account of being raped twice.
The girl told gardaí that in September 2019, she returned home late from school and the man slapped her on the cheek, making her fall and bang her head against a wall.
In April 2020, the man was annoyed because the child had spoken to social workers so he boxed her. That same evening, he got angry with her for picking out clothes which he said showed bad fashion sense and he hit her over the head with a plastic bottle.
In May 2020, he pushed her while she was in the sitting room, causing her to fall and hit her face off the arm rest of a couch, which caused the injury to her nose. When she began to cry, he repeatedly slapped her on the back.
The child’s mother also began crying and the man poured a container of water over both her head and her mother’s.
On another occasion he told her to go to her bedroom. He followed her up and punched her in her left thigh and arm a number of times while telling her that she should not be alive. He asked her why she did not die in her mother’s womb.
On the final occasion, he punched her for 30 minutes after he claimed she was not treating her mother with respect. Both he and her mother then left the house for cigarettes but when he returned, he resumed punching the child for a further 30 minutes.
The 12-year-old also outlined to gardaí three incidences of sexual assault and two of rape.
She said following the first incident of rape, the accused promised he would never do it again and the child reminded him of this when he began raping her on the second occasion.
The first time he raped her, the child’s mother had just left the house, the second time the woman was downstairs. Following each incident, the man instructed the child to have a shower.
Neighbours also made statements to gardaí describing the child as being a polite and friendly girl who displayed a talent for football. One family said their daughter was very close with the girl and they brought the girl to GAA training and matches.
But neighbours noticed a change in the child after the accused moved into the family home. They said she stopped playing outside, stopped playing football and moved school. She was never outside without the accused.
One person witnessed the man pinning the girl against a wall and described the girl as “having left her own body to protect herself. She had a blank stare on her face”.
A victim impact statement from the child's adoptive mother was read into court. She described her as an amazing young teenager who loves art, GAA, music, singing and Harry Potter. She said the child was a "cosmic ray of sunshine" in their family's life but said she has an ongoing fear for her own safety and a fear of men.
She said the teenager has a constant need to listen to music to occupy her mind and a constant need to self-validate and can only sleep with lights on.
A statement from the girl’s social worker said the girl is now living in “a nurturing environment and getting the childhood she deserves”. She described her as a young child with “great determination, strength and resilience”.
The now 13-year-old’s own victim impact statement, read into the record by Mr Staines, said that she was beaten up, kicked, punched and raped by the man and she didn’t know what she could do.
She said he told her if he went to jail, he would find her and kill her. She said her mother was no help to her and she had no one to trust.
She described now being uncomfortable around sexual matters and uncomfortable when she has to take her clothes off. She said doesn’t want a relationship with men and doesn’t want to have children.
“My parents didn’t protect me like they should have,” the girl stated.
“I felt I was not good enough and it would make me feel depressed and sad,” the girl said before she described how fearful she would be when the school bell rang because she knew it was time to return home.
She said she is happy now and thanked the gardaí who came to her home and helped her.
Ronan Munro SC, defending, confirmed to Ms Justice Murphy that his client still maintains his innocence. He submitted that as a foreign national in an Irish prison, the man will find his time in custody more difficult than other inmates.
In her sentencing remarks in October, Mr Justice Murphy had noted the effect that the offending had on the previously happy and bubbly child. She said that despite being in a foster family where she is loved and happy, the child still has immense fear of her step father finding her.
She noted the man had a history of violent offending and had not abided by the conditions of his early release from a ten year sentence in his native country which required him to remain there until 2022.
She said he had not observed that and instead was in Ireland "laying waste" to the young girls life.
Ms Justice Murphy noted there had been little offered in mitigation and he maintains his innocence. She took into account that as a non Irish citizen time in custody will be harder for him.
She took into account that he had grown up in institutional care which the court could conclude had a damaging effect and that uncontrollable anger appeared to be a feature of his offending.