Man who lured two girls from party has appeal dismissed

32-year-old repeatedly raped children after luring them from a birthday party in Athlone

A man who lured two girls away from a children’s birthday party and told them he would cut their parents’ throats before repeatedly raping them has had an appeal against his sentence dismissed.

The 32-year-old man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to raping the nine and six-year-old girls in a flat in Athlone on September 28th, 2013.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment by Mr Justice Paul Carney on March 3rd, 2014.

The man moved to appeal his sentence last month on grounds that it was excessive in all the circumstances.

His barrister, Sean Gillane SC, acknowledged at the outset that there were certain “nightmarish aspects” about this case involving violations of an unspeakable kind of the personal and bodily integrity of two children.

Mr Gillane said certain aspects of the man’s assistance should have merited a different approach by the trial judge.

On foot of advice he received from his solicitor, he made full admissions and indicated how the case would be approached before he left the Garda station, Mr Gillane said.

It was indicated that there would be no requests for medical notes or disclosure and no requests even for disclosure of the tapes of interview of the two victims “which in my experience was unique,” Mr Gillane said.

His solicitor then indicated, in that early remand period, that there would be a willingness and desire not to receive a book of evidence and to be sent forward on a signed plea of guilty.

Mr Justice Birmingham remarked that the man’s solicitor Gearoid Geraghty did a splendid job. “The fact there’s room for debate is entirely due to the quality of the legal advice he gave”.

Giving judgment on Monday, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the facts of the case were "almost to horrible to recount".

He said the court had concluded that the facts of the case were such that they could truly be said to be exceptional.

He said the abduction of two very young girls and their rape in the manner described meant these offences were exceptional.

The court could not conclude that the sentencing judge had erred in imposing discretionary life sentences, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, dismissed the appeal.

With great difficulty, Mr Gillane said there was a moral dimension to attach to the approach he took. “It occurs in the darkest of cases and this was certainly a dark case.”

Mr Gillane said his plea and acknowledgment of wrongdoing at the very least pointed towards positive rehabilitative steps being taken.

Mr Gillane referred to two cases known as 'D' and 'McC' which got "joint treatment" by the Supreme Court in 2007.

In ‘D’ there were four daughters, 153 counts on the indictment and a 20-year period of abuse while ‘McC’ involved six children and an 11-year period of abuse.

Mr Gillane said the Supreme Court upheld life sentences in those cases having regard to four aspects: systemic abuse; duration; gravity of the offending and relationship between the perpetrator and the accused.

If unmandatory life sentences became the norm, Mr Gillane said an offender might feel the value of their plea would vanish when it comes tosentencing.

Were the Court of Appeal to uphold this man’s life sentence, it would be a new development in that landscape, he said.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Patrick McGrath SC, had said the man was submitting that because it was a single set of transactions, it somehow put the offence in a different category.

There were no authorities to support the proposition that there had to be a series or a long running campaign of abuse for a court to conclude that a life sentence was justified, Mr McGrath said.

It was difficult to conceive of a more horrific set of circumstances, Mr McGrath said. The girls were “lured” from a place of safety and the acts themselves were horrific.

The fact that there was no relationship between him and the victims should not be used in any way to his benefit, Mr McGrath said.

The fact a stranger was capable of emerging out of nowhere to commit this offence was as bad if not worse than abuse being carried out within a family, Mr McGrath said.

He said the net point was whether an offence or collection of offences carried out in one afternoon was capable of justifying a life sentence. “The answer must be yes”.

He asked whether the facts of this case were of a kind that would allow a trial judge to reach that conclusion, and he immediately said “yes”.

If that is the case, he asked, “then where is the error in principle?”

The only mitigating factor was the early plea, he said.