Rapist sent to jail as judge revokes 'inappropriate' bail
Patrick O’Brien's bail following his conviction for raping his daughter Fiona Doyle over a 10-year period has been revoked by Mr Justice Paul Carney.
The sentencing judge today admitted he was wrong and insensitive to let the 72-year-old walk free from Dublin’s Central Criminal Court on Monday. O’Brien’s jail term, including nine years suspended, starts now, the judge ruled.
He said he had no hesitation in expressing his “profound regret” to Ms Doyle, who had waived her right to anonymity, for the distress caused to her in this case.
His decision earlier this week to sentence O'Brien to 12 years in jail, with nine suspended, and then grant bail pending an appeal, provoked strong reaction. When imposing the sentence, Mr Justice Carney had cited the defendant’s poor health.
O’Brien, of Old Court Avenue, Bray, Co Wicklow had pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to 16 charges of the rape and indecent assault of Fiona Doyle at Mackintosh Park, Pottery Road, Dun Laoghaire from 1973 to 1982.
The victim had told the court that the sexual abuse, which began on the night before her First Holy Communion, became so routine that she felt it was as frequent as “having dinner”.
Today, Brendan Grehan SC, prosecuting, told the court the judge was wrong to grant O’Brien leave to appeal because the law had changed in 2010 and the court no longer had that power.
After hearing Mr Grehan, Mr Justice Carney told the court: “The procedure I adopted was not appropriate. It was insensitive. I have absolutely no doubt or hesitation in saying that.”
The judge then set aside the certificate granting an appeal, meaning that bail was also revoked. He told each side they were free to bring the matter before the appeal court.
He added that in certifying the case for appeal he was not canvassing for any reduction in the sentence but was looking for “immediate assistance from other judges”.
“I frankly did not want to take the responsibility of the case entirely on my own,” he said. “I wanted to share the burden with others.”
Mr Justice Carney said he wanted the assistance of the Appeal Court, which he referred to as “experienced minds”, as soon as possible, and it was his intention that bail would be a “short-term matter”.
He explained that for many decades it has been the practice to grant bail when an appeal is certified, except in cases of murder.
He noted O’Brien’s medical problems and said it is part of jurisprudence to sentence both the offence and the offender. He said this view had been expressed repeatedly by the Appeals Court and the Supreme Court.
Referring to the Court of Criminal Appeal, Mr Justice Carney said he was concerned he might have given too much weight to O'Brien's ill-health and wanted “immediate assistance from other judges”. “I was fully aware of the gravity of the offence and I expressed this in sentencing,” he said.
After revoking bail, he said it is now open to the DPP to appeal the sentence on the grounds of undue leniency and also open to the defence to appeal it on the grounds of undue severity.
“I have no hesitation in expressing to Ms Doyle my profound regret for the distress which has being caused to her in this case,” he said. “I trust there will be an appreciation that these matters are not open or shut.”
O’Brien’s defence barrister, Mary Rose Gearty SC, told Mr Justice Carney she was instructed to ask the court to consider bail. The judge replied: “I refuse.”
Ms Doyle and her family stayed in court silently watching until O’Brien, using a walker, was led out of the court by prison officers.
Mr Grehan also told the court that other counts, which O’Brien had been charged with but had not pleaded to, were to be taken into consideration.
Speaking on the steps of the Central Criminal Court after her father was jailed, Ms Doyle said she accepted Judge Carney’s regret at what happened.
“I feel vindicated and that was all I wanted,” she said.