Man sexually assaulted boy ‘hours’ after release from six-year sentence

John Prendiville successfully appeals sentence at the Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal has spoken of society’s need to rehabilitate sex offenders in the case of a man jailed for sexually assaulting a vulnerable 14-year-old boy “hours” after completing a six-year sentence.

John Prendiville (50), of no fixed abode, had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to sexually assaulting the boy at a B&B in Co Kerry on May 12th, 2012.

He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Mr Justice Paul Carney on January 26th, 2015.

Prendiville successfully appealed his sentence at the Court of Appeal on Tuesday. The suspended period of his sentence was increased by one year on condition he seek out psychological counselling in prison and complete all courses offered to him.

Post-release supervision of Prendiville was also extended from 18 months to two years.

Speaking on behalf of the three-judge court, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said Prendiville had met the injured party "within hours of being released" from Castlerea Prison having served a six-year sentence for a previous sexual assault.

Prendiville met the boy on the street while he was smoking outside a public house, Mr Justice Mahon said.

He began talking to the boy and asked if he wanted an alcoholic drink. The boy agreed and they went inside where they had four or five alcoholic drinks.

At about 11pm they returned to Prendiville’s B&B where the sexual assault took place.

Mr Justice Mahon said Prendiville had a troubled background having attended St Joseph’s Industrial School in Tralee and he had a number of previous convictions for sexual offences dating back to 1992 involving teenage boys and young men.

At least two of those sexual offences involved violence or the threat of violence.

Mr Justice Mahon said the injured party himself had a troubled background and was living under the care of social services. He was described as a “vulnerable” person with a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder.

The sexual assault left the victim feeling “horrible”, wary of strangers and he had difficulty coping generally, Mr Justice Mahon said.

Prendiville’s barrister, Michael Bowman SC, submitted that the judge erred in placing the offence on the upper end of the scale when the assault had not involved any threat of violence nor the specific targetting of the boy. He was approached on a random basis by Prendiville and there was no obvious breach of trust.

Furthemore, Mr Bowman submitted the sentence was not properly structured to provide for Prendiville’s rehabilitation having regard to his previous propensity to commit similar offences and the judge failed to consider fully that Prendiville breached orders made under the Sex Offenders Act when he was destitute and homeless.

Mr Justice Mahon said a particularly worrying feature of this offence was Prendiville’s prior record and convictions for sexually assaulting boys and young men, including this assault on a vulnerable young boy immediately following his release from prison.

This fact served to emphasise the extremely difficult efforts society faced in controlling sex offenders and ensuring that the public and children in particularly were protected, Mr Justice Mahon said.

In this case, 12 years was “entirely appropriate”, Mr Justice Mahon said. Prendiville’s past behaviour indicated that not even a lengthy prison sentence deterred him from repeat offending.

But it was clear that something had to be incorporated into his sentence so that when he’s released, the public will be protected, the judge said.

In so far as the judge erred, Mr Justice Mahon said insufficient weight was attached to the prospect and need for rehabilitation which is essential if the public is to be protected. The simple requirement that there be post release supervision, while of some value, was insufficient in this case, he said.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, held the 12 year sentence, increased the two year suspension to three years on a number of conditions and extended post release supervision from 18 months to two years.

Prendiville was required to seek out psychological counselling in prison and to complete all such offers of treatment and counselling including the Building Better Lives Programme.

He was required to enter into his own bond of €1,000 to comply with those conditions and to keep the peace and be of good behaviour while in custody and for a period of three years post-release.

When asked if he undertook to be so bound, he said “yeah”.