A father who raped and sexually assaulted his daughter on a repeated basis over a 12-year period and told gardaí that he considered her a “partner” by night has lost an appeal against the severity of his 15 year prison sentence.
The 54-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect his daughter's identity, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court in October 2018 to 21 sample charges including rape, attempted rape, anal rape and sexual assault at locations in Dublin and Leinster on dates between January 2006 and December 2017. He has no previous convictions.
His daughter was aged between five and 17 years old at the time of the offences.
The man, who was raised in a small agricultural town in North Africa, also pleaded guilty to three counts of assault causing harm to his daughter on dates between June 2016 and December 2017.
Sentencing the man to 18 years in prison with the final three years suspended in 2018, Mr Justice Michael White said the offences were “at the very apex of seriousness” and noted the “profound breach of trust” involved.
He said the “moving” victim impact statement reflected how the man had used his daughter's “filial love to isolate her and cruelly abuse her”.
Mr Justice White stated that the “relationship between a father and daughter is very important for the development of personality and well being of any young daughter and is something to be respected at all times”.
In her victim impact statement, the complainant said her father “tore her soul apart”. “I cared about him from the depths of my heart, but he broke that,” she said. “The worst thing he did to me was that he made me love him unconditionally. The biggest danger in my world was right in front of me and he could not save me from himself," she added.
Moving to appeal his sentence last April, his barrister, Caroline Biggs SC, told the Court of Appeal that the main ground of appeal was that the sentencing judge had erred in principle by fixing a life sentence as the appropriate headline sentence.
While the case contained “a serious and appalling set of circumstances,” which included encouraging the victim to consume alcohol and watch pornography and a horrific breach of trust of a father-daughter relationship, Ms Biggs argued that the judge had erred by finding the offences were at “the very apex of the serious offence of rape.”
She suggested the appropriate headline sentence should have been in the range of between 10 and 15 years.
Ms Biggs said Mr Justice White had also given insufficient credit to the many mitigating factors in the case including the man’s early guilty plea and his full co-operation with gardaí.
She said the man had accepted the blame was all his and had left the family home immediately after the offences had been reported and became homeless.
The barrister said there had been a history of the man being defiled by male members of his own family.
She claimed similar cases in terms of gravity had received headlines sentences of 10 to 15 years.
Opposing the appeal, Conor Devally SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), argued there had been no error in fixing a headline sentence of life imprisonment given the large number of aggravating factors in the case.
In a judgement returned electronically on Thursday, the President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the three-judge court did not agree with counsel for the appellant that it was inappropriate for the sentencing judge to have determined upon a headline sentence of life imprisonment given the seriousness of the offending conduct in the case.
Dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Birmingham sitting with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice Michael Collins said there were a multiplicity of seriously aggravating factors of which due account had to be taken. "We are satisfied that the cumulative effect of these aggravating factors and the harm done, coupled with the intrinsic depravity of the offending conduct at issue, uplifted the overall culpability of the appellant's conduct and brought it within the sentencing judge's scope for action to nominate a headline sentence of life imprisonment," said Mr Justice Birmingham.
The Court of Appeal found that the offending involved a high number of individual incidents perpetrated with a regularity over nearly eleven years. "Almost the entirety of her childhood had been blighted by being subjected to the abuses for which the appellant faced sentencing and, as is evident from her poignant and moving victim impact statement, those abuses had a profoundly damaging effect on her," said Mr Justice Birmingham.
Furthermore, the three-judge panel said that the offending involved "the highest and most culpable degree of breach of trust, that between a parent and a child, and as a corollary of this he had grossly misused his dominant position within the family".
In summary, the three judges said they were completely satisfied that in the circumstances of the case it was legitimately within the discretion of the sentencing judge to take the view that the offending in this case was "at the very apex of the serious offence of rape", and to have nominated a life sentence as the headline sentence.
ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE FROM SENTENCE HEARING:
A local garda revealed that the man gave his daughter two black eyes on one occasion.
He said that the complainant suspected this was because her father had viewed an image of her on her phone in which he had deemed her inappropriately dressed. The garda told Conor Devally SC, prosecuting, that a subsequent beating had put the girl out of school for a time.
He revealed that after his arrest the man admitted his abuse, but downplayed beating the girl and suggested that he viewed her “by day father and daughter, by night partner”.
The court heard that during one summer the girl thought she was pregnant and this caused “temporary respite” for a month. When it transpired she was not pregnant the abuse resumed.
The girl told gardaí that no week went by without her being raped and that the attacks happened almost daily on weekends and during holidays.
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