A judge has said he was struck by the humanity of a young girl who told gardaí that she was really angry at her teenage cousin who raped her but she still loved him.
Mr Justice Michael White said the victim, who was aged between eight and nine when her teenage cousin raped her, was an exceptional young child.
“She is the person who has really suffered and that should never be forgotten. She has to try to recover from this ordeal when her bodily integrity and innocence was needlessly taken away from her for such selfish reasons by someone she loved and trusted.
“I hope that she can heal and I wish her the very best,” Mr Justice White said on Tuesday morning.
The now 16-year-old defendant pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to sexually assaulting and raping his cousin on dates between December 2017 and May 2019. He was aged 13 and 14 when he carried out the attacks at his home in Co Dublin and at her family home in another county.
He also pleaded guilty to causing a child to watch sexual activity.
Lawyers for the accused told the Central Criminal Court that a Probation Services assessment identified that the boy’s pathway to offending was the viewing of adult pornography on his mobile phone at an early age.
Brendan Grehan SC, defending, said there was “an epidemic in its own right of young boys accessing pornography and then acting it out in inappropriate ways”.
In his sentencing comments, Mr Justice White said the aggravating circumstances included the seriousness of the offending, the use of pornography to groom the victim, the breach of trust and the effect on the victim.
He said the victim’s family and the court were “utterly dismayed” that in his Garda interviews the defendant did not acknowledge the truth of his abuse. He said the defendant had since fully acknowledged the extent of his offending and had started to become aware of the enormity of the impact of his offending on his cousin.
The judge said there were substantial mitigating factors in the case, including his constructive engagement with a national treatment programme for sex offenders and the strong pro-social parental support.
He said he was satisfied the boy’s remorse was genuine.
The judge said that, on balance, the court was satisfied the defendant was an immature 13-year-old at the time, notwithstanding the evidence that “he was secretive and cunning in committing these offences”.
“The court fully accepts that these are offences of the most serious nature. If the accused was either an older teenager, 16 or over, or an adult, he would be receiving a custodial sentence.”
He indicated a four-year period of detention which he deferred for one year on condition that he complete the sex offender treatment programme, and had no contact with the victim or her family.
In deferring the detention order Mr Justice White adjourned the case to February 15th, 2022, and ordered that the boy be placed under the supervision of a probation and welfare officer.
At the hearing next February the court will consider information on the child’s conduct in the meantime and may then suspend all or some of the indicated period of detention, subject to section 144 of the Children Act, 2001.
This section allows a court to defer the making of a children detention order if the court is satisfied that, having regard to the nature of the offence and the age, level of understanding, character and circumstances of the offender, it would be in the interests of justice to do so.
The abuse emerged in May 2019 when the victim became upset one day and told her mother that her cousin had touched her. Gardaí were called in and child specialist interviewers spoke to the girl.
When the boy’s parents asked him about the allegations, he admitted he had shown her videos of adult pornography.
He was crying and kept telling his parents: “I’m guilty, I’m a paedophile and the guards should just lock me up.”
The girl told gardaí the boy would force her to engage in sexual acts with him and said she did not like it and “it wasn’t nice”.
Referring to her cousin she told gardaí: “I’m really angry at him but I still love him.”
In his victim-impact report the girl’s father said he wished to thank gardaí and the Cari foundation for their support and help. He said because of the “chronic lack of Government funding” Cari has a long waiting list and it was 15 months before his daughter could get an appointment.
Mr Grehan, defending, read a letter written by the boy to his cousin in which he apologised repeatedly for his actions.
“I took advantage of you and abused that. You must hate me. That’s okay. I hope you are getting support.
“I can’t put into words how much I feel ashamed. I really messed up. Every night I pray this is all a dream. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know how much pain this would cause.”