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March sentencing for Clare man who sexually abused three young female relatives

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A CLARE man convicted of indecently assaulting three female relatives will be sentenced in March.

The 61-year-old man appeared before Ennis circuit court last week via video-link from prison.

The man has been on remand since being found by guilty by a jury at the end of his trial in November.

The man had pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of indecent assault of three girls at locations in Clare between 1983 and 1989. He denied abusing two of his sisters-in-law and their cousin.

Seven of the charges concern one of the women, 23 charges relate to her younger sister and the remaining four charges relate to their cousin.

The case is subject to reporting restrictions.

In court, Judge Francis Comerford set March 7, 2023, as the date for the man’s sentencing hearing.

The man told the court he wished to appear at the hearing via video-link and not in person, in court.

Judge Comerford remanded the man in custody to appear again in court on March 7, 2023.

During the week-long trial, the jury heard evidence from the three victims.

One of the women told the jury she was 12, when she was first abused by her brother-in-law at his then home in Clare in Christmas 1986.

She said the abuse also regularly happened on other occasions when she was babysitting her nephew.

She said the abuse involved the man groping her breasts, inserting his finger in her vagina and forcing her to masturbate him.

“He convinced me this was something I had to learn”, she said She continued, “He told me I did fine and I was a good girl”. The woman told the jury the accused said to her the abuse was “our secret”. The woman said she felt “frozen and confused” after the assaults.

“I didn’t know what it was. I had no sex education”, she added.

Asked by prosecuting counsel, Lorcan Connolly BL, about how she had been affected by the abuse, the woman replied, “Unbelievably. It has destroyed my life”.

The woman told the jury she disclosed the abuse to a friend in the 2000s.

She said she made a statement to gardaí in 2014.

Asked why she had not come forward sooner, the woman said, “The shame and the embarrassment.”

The jury heard evidence the woman told one of her sisters in 2009 that she had been abused by their brother-in-law.

In court, the sister said, “I couldn’t believe it happened to her. I was just floored”.

Another woman, a cousin-in-law of the accused, told the jury she was 13 when she was first abused at a family gathering at a house in Clare in 1989.

She said the accused pulled her into a shed, groped her breast and rubbed his penis against her.

The girl said she told the man she was 13 and he replied that she looked 16. The jury heard the man told her he was 28.

She said, “He said I couldn’t tell anybody, that his wife would kill me and we would have to get a boat to England.”

She said that on a different night in the house the man lay beside her on a couch and forced her to masturbate him.

The woman told the jury she felt “ashamed, guilty and disgusted” after the abuse.

“I was very troubled after it happened,” she added.

The jury heard that in 1991, the woman disclosed to a HSE social worker that she had been abused by a 28-year-old cousin-in-law.

The woman said she made a statement to gardaí in 2018 after learning her cousins were making allegations about the accused.

Asked by Mr Connolly why she had had not come forward to gardaí before 2018, the woman said, “Because I was terrified. It was never an option for me to come forward. I thought I was the only one.”

The woman said she told her now husband in 1997 that she had been abused and later identified the accused as the man responsible.

The woman’s sister gave evidence that in 2001, her sister told her she had been abused by their cousin-in-law.

The woman also disclosed the abuse to a childhood friend, the jury heard.

The jury heard evidence from Sergeant Tracey Stanley that the accused repeatedly denied all of the women’s allegations when they were put to him during garda interviews.

“That never happened. That never happened. That’s some allegation….I’ll take a lie detector,” he said.

He described one of the allegations as “complete lies and fabrication”. “I’m devastated by this. I don’t know why anyone would say this about me,” he added. In a pre-prepared written statement given to gardaí, the man said he “absolutely denied these allegations”.

The statement also provided a timeline of the man’s life and work history in Clare and Limerick.

In his charge to the jury at the end of the trial, Judge Francis Comerford told them “not to have any regard” to parts of the accused’s written statement in which he made allegations about his sisters-in-law’s alleged behaviour when they were younger.

In his closing speech, prosecuting counsel, Lorcan Conolly BL, asked the jury to treat with “particular caution” the accused’s written statement, saying it was evidence that had not been tested by cross-examination.

He described as a “smokescreen”, parts of the accused’s pre-prepared statement in which he made allegations about two of the victims.

Counsel said “you’d need a heart of stone” not to feel sympathy for the three alleged victims.

He said it was also possible to have a “natural sympathy” for the family and the situation they find themselves in

Mr Connolly said, “You have to park those sympathies and you have the decide the case on the evidence you have heard.”

Counsel asked the jury to consider the similarities in the evidence given by the three women concerning the type of assaults they were subjected to.

Of the three complainants and the credibility of their evidence, Mr Connolly asked the jury to consider why they would go through all of this in 2022. “Why have these three women come here this week? Are they part of some production that should be up in the Abbey theatre? Or are you satisfied with the cogency and accuracy of their evidence?”

Mr Connolly said the evidence of the youngest complainant, who first disclosed the abuse in 1991, was “not the work of a fantasist”.

“This is the work of an accurate historian,” he added.

He said supporting evidence, such as DNA and scenes of crime reports, were not features of this case. 

Counsel said offences of this type are typically carried out in secret because “secrecy is the currency of the sexual deviant”.

Defence barrister Anthony Sammon SC, told the jury they had to be careful in their consideration of the evidence.

He asked them “not to make life altering decisions with very little to go on”.

The trial at Ennis Courthouse was heard before Judge Francis Comerford.

The State was represented by State Solicitor for Clare, Aisling Casey and prosecuting counsel, Lorcan Connolly BL.

The accused was represented by solicitor, Tara Godfrey, who instructed Anthony Sammon SC, who appeared with Patrick Whyms BL.

The jury deliberated for two days before returning guilty verdicts on all counts.

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