A man who had sex with his teenage cousin in the grounds of a church has received a prison sentence of 30 months.
The 32-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the woman's anonymity, pleaded guilty to engaging in a sexual act with a child under the age of 17 on a date in May 2018 at a place in Galway city. The offence, also termed defilement, comes with a maximum penalty of five years.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the man was aged 29 at the time when he met the 16-year-old girl and they spent the afternoon drinking outside and smoking cannabis.
The victim told gardaí that she was “stoned” and passing out and remembers coming to and finding the man having sex with her. She said she remembered being inside the church in the city with the man earlier and telling him that she wanted to go to sleep.
She said her cousin kept asking her to go over to the bushes and she kept saying no. She said he told her he could take care of her and she thought “he was looking out for me”.
She said the defendant later began groping her and she was telling him to stop. She said she reminded him that they were cousins, but he ignored her. She said she was so out of it she was not able to keep her eyes open.
140 previous convictions
Garnet Orange SC, prosecuting, told the Central Criminal Court that a priest later told gardaí that he saw the pair in a dishevelled state, but he did not have a sense of anyone in distress. He said he saw the couple get dressed and walk off.
The woman got on a bus travelling back to her home and she told the driver that something had happened. An investigation ensued and on May 22nd, 2018, gardaí arrested the defendant.
He relied on his right to silence for much of his questioning, but emphatically denied having committed any criminal offence, the court heard.
The court heard the defendant's 140 previous convictions include assault, robbery, burglary, possession of knives, theft and public order offending. He has four convictions for Covid offences.
The court heard that he would be “a fairly visible presence” in Galway city centre. Defence counsel Roisin Lacey SC told the court that her client's offending is linked to a chaotic lifestyle that involves addiction.
In her victim impact statement, read by Detective Sergeant Paul Duane, the woman told her cousin: “I always will remember the day you took my innocence away from me as a child. You are a child molester and you are a rapist and you will forever be a rapist.”
Sentencing on Wednesday, Justice Paul McDermott said the victim was a vulnerable person and the defendant took advantage of her after she became intoxicated. He noted the significant disparity of age.
He noted the mitigating factors submitted by the defendant's legal team were a dysfunctional childhood with drug and drink problems in the family home. He also noted the man's own mental health issues and his low intellectual ability.
He said that unlike in some cases of defilement of a child, this case did not involve any grooming over an extended period of time and seemed to be a once-off incident.
He said that there was an absence of evidence of lack of consent and no evidence of violence.
He noted that the Probation Service has assessed the defendant as being at a medium risk of committing more sexual offences.
He set a headline sentence of three and a half years which he reduced by one year, taking mitigation into consideration. He also imposed a two-year post release supervision period during which the defendant must engage fully with the Probation Service and attend any psychiatric appointments as recommended by the Probation Service.
He backdated the start of the sentence by five months to allow for time already served in custody.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.