Man who suffered ‘horrific and debased’ abuse by his uncle awarded €203,000

Victim’s psychiatrist says it was among worst childhood and adolescent abuse cases she has seen

A 33-year-old man who suffered “horrific and debased” rape and sexual abuse by his uncle for 10 years has been awarded €203,000 by the High Court.

The victim’s psychiatrist said it was among the worst childhood and adolescent abuse cases she has dealt with in 40 years of practice.

The uncle is currently serving a seven-and-a-half year jail sentence given to him in 2016 for his crimes.

The nephew’s counsel, John O’Dwyer BL, instructed by Canice Egan solicitor, said the perpetrator, although he admitted his crimes when interviewed by gardaí, went on to plead not guilty, unsuccessfully appealed his conviction and has never apologised for what he did.

The case came before Ms Justice Carmel Stewart for assessment of damages after judgment was earlier entered in default of appearance against the uncle. The uncle did not appear when the award was assessed on Friday although he had been served with proceedings in prison.

The abuse started when the boy was nine and occurred in the nephew’s home, his grandmother’s house and in the uncle’s house between 1998 and 2008. Between 2004 and 2008, he was raped and abused three to four times a week, it was claimed.

After the initial assaults, he stopped visiting the home of his uncle in Dublin. However, the uncle would then regularly visit the boy’s home, staying overnight and perpetrating further assaults.

The boy, it was claimed, lived in a constant state of terror. He was afraid to tell anyone and was threatened that he and his entire family would be killed. It was not until he was 19, when he feared his uncle would do the same to someone else, that he decided to tell.

The nephew told the court that while he had “good days and bad days”, he is still suffering from the assaults including having nightmares in which he is being chased by his uncle. His uncle had never said sorry despite having had a few years in prison to think about the crimes, he said.

His psychiatrist said the nephew decided to bring the claim as a result of abuse involving severe physical force and intimidation, which was of a “horrific and debased nature”. She had dealt with a lot of institutional abuse cases but the severity and ferocity of what he was exposed to was at the extreme end of the scale, she said.

She diagnosed him with complex post-traumatic stress disorder which will have ill effects for his lifetime. It means a person has difficulty in relationships, is hyper vigilant and can find difficulty in controlling their temper, among other things.

The psychiatrist said that as a child he was an honours grade pupil with a bright future. Later, as a result of the abuse, he had difficulty in retaining information and concentrating, which had an adverse effect on his education. Although he is able to hold down a job, he would have been able to do a lot better in life had it not been for the abuse, she said.

He has two children of his own now. He is prone to reliving the traumatic events and can become moody and have outbursts, which has affected his relationships, she said.

The fact that he decided to tell what happened to him as a result of a fear of the abuser doing it to someone else was a positive feature of his character, she said.

Ms Justice Stewart said he was clearly entitled to recover damages. While this case pre-dates Judicial Council guidelines on personal injury awards, in which complex post-traumatic stress is not set out in the categories, the guidelines did have recommended awards for severe post-traumatic stress.

In her view, an award of €200,000 for future and past suffering was appropriate along with €3,000 in special damages, plus legal costs.