A man who “preyed” on a seven-year-old girl “in a shameful manner” and raped her has been jailed for 10 years and six months.
The 53-year-old Slovakian man was found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court of one count of rape and 12 counts of sexual assault earlier this year.
The offending occurred on unknown dates between September 21st, 2012, and September 6th, 2013, when the victim was seven, at a house in Co Wexford.
The defendant was living at the same address as the girl’s father. The abuse occurred when the girl, who is now 17, visited the house at weekends.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, does not accept the jury's verdict.
Imposing the sentence, Ms. Justice Karen O'Connor said the man had “preyed on a young child in a shameful manner”.
She noted the aggravating features of this case include the victim's young age at the time and the age difference of 36 years between the defendant and the girl.
Ms. Justice O'Connor said the victim was staying in the place where her father lived, and this should have been a place of “safety and security” for her.
The judge said the man had threatened the girl and “groomed her” in a “despicable way” using chocolate.
Ms. Justice O'Connor noted the man is entitled not to accept the jury's verdict; however, this means the mitigation of a guilty plea is not available to him. She said the man is using his time in custody well and has limited contact with his family by phone.
She noted the man has no previous convictions of a sexual nature, but does have a conviction for a “serious violent offence” in another jurisdiction.
She imposed a sentence of 10 years and six months in relation to the rape charge, and seven years and six months in respect of the sexual assault charges. The sentences are to run concurrently and were backdated to July 18th, 2021, when the man went into custody.
At an earlier sentence hearing, a local garda said the girl told her mother about the abuse in 2019 and later made a disclosure to a guidance counsellor. She was interviewed by specialist gardaí in December 2020, when she was 15.
She told Gardaí the man would touch her inappropriately on a regular basis when they were both upstairs in the house. The girl said she refused his requests, but he continued and would also give her chocolate.
The court heard that on one occasion, the man called the girl into his room, where he gave her a Kinder egg. He then grabbed her and raped her.
He also threatened the girl and told her in one incident that something would happen to her if she said anything to her parents.
The girl's victim impact statement was read to the court by the prosecuting counsel.
The girl said the man's offending had “ruined” her childhood and teenage years. She said she has suffered from anxiety, depression and self-harm.
The girl said she is scared of every man who crosses her path in the dark and that it will take many years for her to live her life to the fullest.
The girl said she was “scared to say anything to anyone in case things got worse”, and that she stopped going to her father's house as she was afraid. She said she did not give him an explanation at that time, and her father thought she did not want to see him, adding that he was “distraught” when he was told the real reason.
Ms. Justice O'Connor said the girl had presented in court as a “person of great strength”, adding that by making the complaint and following it through, the girl would help other children who may be in a similar situation by showing them that they are not alone. She also wished the victim well for the future.
The man denied any wrongdoing when he was interviewed following his arrest in December 2020. He has been in custody since July 2021, when he was charged.
He has one previous conviction for murder from an Eastern European jurisdiction, dating back to 2001, for which he received a prison sentence. Gardaí were unable to confirm other details as the file had been destroyed, the court was told.
The investigating garda agreed with Maurice Coffey SC, defending, that his client has no previous convictions of a sexual nature. He also accepted that the man moved to Ireland in 2012 and co-operated with this investigation.
Mr. Coffey told the court that his instructions were that a man was stabbed during the course of a dispute, and his client served 10 years of a 13-year prison sentence.
The court heard the Director of Public Prosecutions placed this offending in the more serious category and suggested a sentence of between 10 and 15 years due to a number of factors, including the breach of trust and the age disparity between the man and the victim.
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.
By Eimear Dodd
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