Politicians condemn judge's rape case remarks

 

There has been widespread condemnation of remarks made by a High Court judge as he suspended a sentence imposed on a convicted rapist.

Politicians and women's groups yesterday called for more training for judges after Mr Justice Daniel Herbert imposed a four-year suspended sentence on a Dublin man who raped a 32-year-old woman.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre called on the DPP to appeal the leniency of the sentence. A spokeswoman said the case would deter other men and women who had been raped from coming forward.

"No actual injury was inflicted on the victim other than the rape," Mr Justice Herbert declared in his ruling at the Central Criminal Court last Friday. He went on to wish the man well in the future.

Noting that sentences of up to 18 years had been passed in "serious rape cases," the judge said this case was much less serious. It "involved a social evening and permitted sexual intimacy which turned into rape".

He told the court there was "only one" aggravating factor in the rape while there were several mitigating factors in the rapist's favour. The aggravating factor was that the rapist had threatened to kill the victim while raping her.

When the victim's family protested in the court, the judge told them that the rapist was not "walking away free". "I have to point out that those who do not understand, through ignorance or otherwise, that a suspended sentence is a real sentence."

Ms Olive Braiden, chairwoman of the Government's new Crisis Pregnancy Agency, said it was "very disturbing" to discover the judge did not appear to understand the trauma suffered by someone who had been raped and threatened with being killed.

Ms Monica Barnes TD, Fine Gael, described the judge's comments as "depressing". "I thought we worked long and hard to get rid of this mindset. Most fair-minded people would be appalled by this kind of judgment", she said.

Ms Barnes pointed out that rape victims have no power to appeal any judgment, and are left feeling "powerless" as a result of having to rely on the State to do this. Separate legal representation for victims "has got to come", she said.

Senator Helen Keogh, Fine Gael, predicted the verdict and the judge's comments would lead to other women deciding not to report rapes.

"I'm astonished at the language used by the judge in regard to a very serious crime, which is what rape is. I thought we'd got past this, but it's clear we're back to the bad old days", Ms Keogh said.