Suspended sentence for youth who raped 8-year-old niece is criticised

Prison term might ‘crush’ vulnerable defendant rather than foster rehabilitation, says judge

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy said that ‘with the best will in the world the supports this young man needs might not be available within the prison system’.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy said that ‘with the best will in the world the supports this young man needs might not be available within the prison system’.

 

The Director of a Sexual Violence Centre has heavily criticised a decision by a judge to give a teenager a five-year suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to raping his niece over a three-year period starting when she was just eight years old.

The High Court sitting in Cork heard that the youth, who cannot be named in order not to identify the victim, acted out pornographic scenes he had been viewing from the age of nine or 10.

The 19-year-old from Munster pleaded guilty to seven Section 4 rapes and 10 sexual assault offences as well as to the sending of lewd texts to his niece.

He was aged between 14 and 17 and the girl was between eight and 11 during the period from May 2016 to April 2019 when the offences occurred.

The injured party said that the youth threatened to do what he was doing to her to her younger sister. She stated that she felt proud that she had protected her younger sibling from his abuse.

Mary Crilly, Director of the Cork Sexual Violence Centre, emphasised that there needs to more guidelines in place in relation to sexual assault and rape cases before the courts.

“I’ve always believed if someone is found guilty of child sexual abuse that they have to get mandatory sentences, then after that the Judge can use whatever discretion they want. The idea of a suspended sentence for abusing a child is just beyond belief,” she said.

“I do hope the Director of Public Prosecutions does appeal the leniency of the sentence in this case.”

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy thanked The Probation Service for the comprehensive report she had received in the case, saying that it helped her in determining the appropriate sentence.

Conditions were attached to the suspended sentence, namely that the youth not reoffend and co-operates with The Probation Service, attends appropriate appointments, notifies gardaí of any change of address, engages with programmes and therapies that would reduce his risk of reoffending, and liaises with the education and employment services.

The youth was ordered not to be in the company of children unsupervised or to go anywhere near the victim.

Ms Justice Murphy also ordered that the teenager undergo a psychiatric assessment and explore queries in relation to an autism diagnosis.

The judge noted from the victim impact statement the isolation felt by the injured party when the offending was occurring.

She said the sexual abuse of a child aged eight to 11 is “potentially devastating.”

She stated the defendant had an emotional maturity that was less than his age. She added that the fact that the accused might be on the autistic spectrum might reduce culpability but make rehabiliation more challenging.

“Having observed this young man’s psychological vulnerability a prison term might crush him rather than foster his rehabilitation. He has demonstrated a willingness to address his deviance,” the judge said.

“I think that with the best will in the world the supports this young man needs might not be available within the prison system,” the judge said, adding that “obviously the State have a right to appeal my decision”.