A CRIMINAL WITH 41 previous convictions who repeatedly defiled a teenage girl has had his six-year jail sentence halved on appeal.
The sentencing court heard that in the aftermath of the offences the girl had suffered with anxiety, depression and had been suicidal, attempting to take her own life in her bedroom before her mother discovered her.
The Court of Appeal found today, however, that the consecutive sentences imposed on the man were not merited and that such a structure “should be used sparingly”.
The now 38-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, had been sentenced to a total of six years’ imprisonment on two counts of defilement of a 16-year-old girl in 2016, when he was 32-years-old.
He had pleaded not guilty to four counts of defilement but was convicted by a jury at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court of engaging in a sexual act with a child under 17 contrary to Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Sex Offences) Act 2006 in July and August 2016.
He was sentenced on two counts, with the other two charges taken into account by the trial judge.
The judge sentenced the male to four years’ imprisonment on the first defilement charge and to three years and six months’ imprisonment, with the final 18 months suspended, on the second. Both sentences were to run consecutively.
Today at the Court of Appeal, the male successfully appealed the severity of the sentences being run consecutively and had his jail time further reduced to three years on all four defilement charges with all four sentences to run concurrently.
The trial heard that the complainant would call to the defendant’s home when his daughter was present. The accused was complimentary of her appearance and got the complainant to massage him, which then developed into intimate touching.
On a walk in a wooded area near his home in July 2016, he defiled the girl by having sex with her.
There followed 120 phone calls to the girl in the period between 8 July 2016, and 26 August 2016. He defiled her a further three times at his apartment in August.
However, the mother of the complainant found a bus ticket belonging to the girl who had lied about her whereabouts. The girl’s mother then discovered photos of both the girl and the male on his Facebook page, which led her to believe that there could be an improper relationship between the two.
The girl told her of the nature of the relationship and her mother then reported the matter to gardaí.
At the time of his sentencing, the male had 41 previous convictions, including those for firearms offences, possession of drugs, theft and road-traffic matters but none of a sexual nature.
In sentencing, Judge Patrick Meghan said the male had committed a breach of trust, showed no remorse and groomed the girl to control her.
Judge Meghan said the injured party had suffered with anxiety, depression and had been suicidal, attempting to take her own life in her bedroom before her mother discovered her.
Judge Meghan said the male was twice her age at the time of the offences, that he took “full advantage” of her, did not use a condom and had deprived her of her sexual development.
At the Court of Appeal today Brian McInerney SC, for the male, argued against the imposition of consecutive sentences on his client, submitting that it was appropriate that they run concurrently.
McInerney said the offending took place over a relatively short period and that there had not been multiple victims involved.
Counsel said his client admits knowing the age of the girl at the time of the offending and that he now accepted his guilt.
McInerney said that no violence nor any intoxicant was used and that the male had now abandoned a conviction appeal. At trial, the defence had also argued that there had been no issue that the offending occurred without her consent.
Monika Leech BL, for the State, said the consecutive nature of the sentences was due to there being two separate incidents of defilement involved.
Leech said that at the time of his sentencing the accused had abused a position of trust, made 120 phone calls to the girl in grooming her, showed no remorse and did not offer a guilty plea to be considered in mitigation.
In quashing the original jail sentence of six years, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said the court would re-sentence the male to three years on each of the four defilement charges.
Ms Justice Kennedy said the male had “exploited” the girl, which had a “severe impact” on her development. The judge said that the girl’s consent was not something the male could rely on in his defence.
However, Ms Justice Kennedy said the consecutive element of the sentencing was “not, in our view, merited” and was a structure that “should be used sparingly” when sentencing.
Ms Justice Kennedy said the court would quash the original sentence “to properly reflect the gravity of the harm done”.
The male was also placed on the sex offenders register.