Friday, November 25, 2022

Fiona Ferguson

A Dublin man with cognitive difficulties who was 16 years old when he raped a girl the same age has been jailed for two years.

In her victim impact statement the young woman described how the rape had impacted and changed her life forever and how the whole court process had made her feel like a victim again.

She said the accused had taken her innocence that day and “used her like some rag doll”. She said he had dehumanised her, leaving her to feel shame for something she had no control over.

The court heard the accused man, now aged 22 years old, has cognitive difficulties and has been assessed as currently having the intellectual capacity of a 14-year-old.

The man pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to raping the girl in Co Wicklow on a date between the 1st and 31st of January 2017. He has no previous convictions.

Social media

A prosecuting garda told Elis Brennan SC, prosecuting, that the teenagers, who had common acquaintances, began communicating through social media and WhatsApp. They agreed to meet and went for a walk on a beach on a dark evening. He tried to kiss her, but she pulled away.

The accused pushed the young woman against a container and raped her despite her repeatedly telling him to stop. He grabbed and restrained her when she tried to walk away. They returned home by train without speaking.

He asked her by text to keep it between them and said he did not mean for it to go this far. She later disclosed what had occurred to a friend and went with her mother to gardaí in 2018.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott on Friday said the court had to consider the harm done to the injured party in the shattering of her security and how she had been affected by this crime.

Courage and determination

He said it should be acknowledged that any person who comes forward to make a complaint shows a huge degree of courage and determination, but it was never going to be the case that the court can undo the damage or reverse what has happened.

Mr Justice McDermott said in sentencing the court must assess the penalty appropriate to the offender and offence and take into account the mitigating factors.

He said if the accused had committed the offence as an adult, he would be imposing a seven-year sentence, but the court had to take into account the man’s age and maturity at the time, as well as his cognitive difficulties. He imposed a sentence of four and a half years before mitigation.

The judge then took into consideration mitigating factors such as the man’s guilty plea and said the court accepted he was making a genuine attempt to address his responsibilities at this time.

He imposed three and a half years and suspended the final 18 months on strict conditions including probation supervision, no contact with the injured party and engagement with appropriate services.

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