Man jailed for raping woman at gaming convention has sentence upheld

Keith Hearne (30) claimed judge did not take his psychiatric illnesses into account

 Dominique Meehan, from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, speaking to media outside court  after the appeal hearing of Keith Hearne. Photograph: Collins Courts

Dominique Meehan, from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, speaking to media outside court after the appeal hearing of Keith Hearne. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A man jailed for raping a woman at a gaming convention has lost an appeal against the severity of his 12-year prison sentence.

Keith Hearne (30), of Allenton Drive, in Tallaght, Dublin 24 pleaded guilty to two counts of rape, one count of oral rape and one count of falsely imprisoning Dominique Meehan at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Blanchardstown on July 4th, 2015.

Sentencing him to 12 years imprisonment in June 2017, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said it was difficult to express the horror and seriousness of the offence.

Hearne sought to appeal the severity of his sentence on grounds that the sentencing judge failed attach sufficient weight to his psychiatric illnesses.

However, the Court of Appeal held he did not have any active symptoms of mental illness at the time of the offence and it, therefore, did not affect his culpability.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said Ms Meehan was setting up an audio-visual display in one of the hotel rooms when Hearne, who was attending the event, locked her into the room and threw her to the ground.

A scuffle ensued and Ms Meehan was thrown into a row of chairs and tackled to the ground. Hearne put his hand over her mouth and licked her cheek, saying ‘any girl would love this’.

He removed her clothing and used a neck tie to bind her hands. He then digitally penetrated her.

She screamed and Hearne threatened her, saying he had a knife in his bag and if she did not shut up, he would use it. He attempted to vaginally penetrate her with his penis but could not maintain an erection.

He pulled her to her knees by the hair. She managed to extract one hand from the binding, at which point Hearne struck her, grabbed her by the head and orally raped her.

Sadomasochistic

The incident ended when a third party heard noise and entered the room to tackle Hearne.

His bag was seized which was found to contain a prop knife, handcuffs, condoms and sadomasochistic items included a studded collar, leather gloves and a leather mask.

He made admissions to gardaí, stating that he had a mental disorder and had not been taking his medication in the weeks leading up the offence.

Hearne had no previous convictions and a psychiatric history which included diagnoses of ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar and schizoaffective disorder. However, psychiatric reports made clear Hearne was of sound mind at the time of the offending.

The sentencing judge fixed 15 years as the headline sentence before applying a three year discount for the mitigating factors.

Ms Justice Kennedy said the Court of Appeal agreed with a headline sentence, noting there were many aggravating factors including the contents of the rucksack.

She said it was a violent, premeditated, prolonged attack on a woman who was subjected to appalling and varied sexual acts. She was “placed in terror” by Hearne’s actions and words.

Hearne’s barrister, Roddy O’Hanlon SC, submitted that the sentencing judge did not properly consider his client’s mental disorders and other mitigating factors.

While Hearne had a complex mental disorder, Ms Justice Kennedy, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Máire Whelan, said it was clear from reports he did not have any active symptoms of mental illness at the time of the offence. Therefore his condition did not affect his culpability.

Speaking outside court, Ms Meehan said: “I feel better today, I didn’t sleep a wink last night. I haven’t slept a wink at all this week. I’m getting better and I will continue to get better and I have massive support.

“I haven’t been able to work since I was attacked. It was four years ago, but it’s going to affect me my entire life,” she said.

“We need to show that with harsher sentences we can stop sexual assault. A campaign with advertisements everywhere isn’t going to stop sexual assaults. This hashtag ‘no excuses’ is only going to be effective with proper sentencing. 12 years, 15 years, is not enough.”