By Sonya McLean
A Waterford man who subjected his daughter to “a campaign of sexual abuse” from the age of three years old has been jailed for 11 and half years.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the 51-year-old man also regularly beat, choked and threatened to kill his three other daughters.
The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his four daughters, pleaded guilty to sample charges of sexual assault, oral rape, inviting a child to engage in sexual touching, assault causing harm and child cruelty to his third eldest daughter on dates between April 2011 and December 2019.
This daughter is now 17 years old and was aged between three and 13 years old while her father was abusing her. The sample charges were representative of 71 offences against this daughter.
He further pleaded guilty to three charges of child cruelty against each of his three other daughters.
These women are now aged 25, 22 and 15 years old. The offences occurred in the family home in Co Waterford.
Victim Impact Statement
The teenager stated in her victim impact statement that she grew up believing she was meaningless and feeling like there was something inherently wrong with her..
“I couldn’t understand the person I loved was the person who abused me. You were supposed to protect me,” she said before she added that her father had “created the most degrading moments of my life”.
She said she never had “a functional family” and didn’t get to experience the beauty of being a child.
“I wish I could have experienced, have felt what it was like to be a child, to be pure,” she said.
Addressing her father, she described him as “very calculated – with an extreme sense of self-importance”.
“You may be my biological father but you are no father of mine,” the teenager concluded.
One of the women stated in her victim impact statement that she is surprised she lived to adulthood as she was so convinced her father would kill her as a child.
The girls outlined incidences of having pillows placed over their heads, being thrown against walls and threatened with a knife.
Mr Justice Michael MacGrath said that the victims were “young ladies of great courage”.
“One can only hope that the pain and suffering they endured and continue to endure will lessen over time,” the judge continued before he added that they all showed great bravery in coming forward.
He said it was to their “great credit” that they have managed to get on with their lives.
He described the sexual abuse suffered by the now 17-year-old girl as “a campaign of abuse against her” and noted that all four victim impact statements, read into the record by the investigating inspector, made for “harrowing and disturbing reading”.
He said the four girls were entitled to feel safe in the family home but “their home was anything but safe and was far from the place of sanctuary that young children deserve”.
Mr Justice McGrath said the case warranted a headline sentence of 17 years for the oral rape offences given “the serious and repeated sexual assaults, the significant breach of trust, breach of authority and the fact his culpability is extremely high”.
He also noted the “great and continuing harm” caused to the man’s four children and at “a very tender age”.
The judge acknowledged that there were no charges of sexual assault offending against three of the man’s daughters but said the offences of child cruelty against these three girls were “serious in its own right”.
“He was the father of young children and he should have been supportive and protective. He was anything but”, the judge continued before he said the four girls were subject to “terrifying, horrifying and unspeakable ordeals”.
He said the mitigating factors in the case included the man’s plea of guilty, expression of remorse and shame for his actions, his co-operation with the garda investigation and lack of previous convictions.
He acknowledged the letter that the man had written which spoke of how he is proud of his daughters’ “bravery for speaking up and how he said he would always love them and wished them well”.
The judge noted that the man has both medical and mental health difficulties and a report outlined that the man had said he didn’t want to die or take his own life because “he wanted his daughters to have the justice they deserved”.
Mr Justice McGrath said taking into account the mitigating factors, he would reduce the headline sentence and imposed a sentence of 11 years and nine months.
He suspended the final three months of that term on various conditions including that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for three years upon his ultimate release from prison and stay away from his daughters and not have any contact with them.
Further Victim Impact Statements
An investigating inspector read the four victim impact statements into the record.
The 17-year-old daughter said: “You were a grown man and I was a child, your child.”
She outlined a history of complex post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and having to take medication for panic attacks.
She said the abuse made it very difficult for her to form relationships outside of their family.
Her oldest sister said the emotional and physical abuse she suffered robbed her of “years of a normal childhood that everyone deserves”.
She said she wonders who she could have been and said she assumed that the abuse she suffered was “what happened to every child – like sitting down to a family meal and brushing your teeth at bedtime”.
She said she dropped out of college because of the stress and described feeling “powerless”.
“I felt selfish. I was burdened with worries I should never have been,” she continued before she described being afraid her father would kill her.
Her young sister recalled the incident of her father trying to smother her and spoke of trying to perfect her timing as “when to take a deep breath” to prevent her suffocating.
“I could not fight against a six foot tall, fully grown man,” she said before she described fearing for her life if she spilled a drink, made a small mistake or tried to defend her sister.
She said she suffers from anxiety as long as she can remember and has issues with self-esteem.
“Now I am happier,” she said before she added that she feels she is “on the way to living a better life”.
“I am shocked that I made it to my adult years as I was convinced you would kill me,” the woman continued before she added that she is “extremely proud” of herself and her sisters.
The youngest daughter described how the physical and mental abuse she suffered at the hands of her father impacted her.
“I never knew how unloved I was until I saw other families. I was always scared my friends would find out about the abuse and I was afraid to have friends over,” the teenager said.
“You made me feel like I deserved to be shouted or hit if I dropped something or made a mistake. I wish I could have had a father who loved and cared for me . You were supposed to be the person I ran to when I was scared. But we finally end the cycle of abuse,” she concluded.
The inspector told Dean Kelly SC, prosecuting, that the man was arrested in September 2021 and admitted that he had sexually abused his daughter from the age of six or seven years old. He confirmed the incidences of abuse occurred while her mother was in hospital and when they were camping together.
He admitted he chastised his children “but stopped short of acknowledging the incidents they had described”, the inspector said.
He accepted that the girls had massaged his back and accepted he had left them with marks after striking them. He also accepted that he had choked one of the girls but didn’t accept it was as severe as his daughter had outlined.
The inspector agreed with Ronan Kennedy SC, defending, that his client didn’t deny the allegations when his wife confronted him following their daughter’s disclosure of sexual abuse.
He said his client accepts that he destroyed his daughter’s life and hopes she can now get help.
He said he didn’t understand why he had done it and said he was disgusted with his behaviour.
The inspector agreed that the man told gardaí during interview that he had been abused himself as a
She accepted that the man has “suffered a significant fall from grace” and that his plea of guilty was valuable to the prosecution.
Mr Kennedy told Mr Justice McGrath that one “can’t help but be moved” by the victim impact statements and acknowledged “the tremendous bravery” of all four victims.
He read a letter from his client into the record in which he said “sorry for the enormous harm I did to each of you” and said that he was “not the father you deserved”.
He said he took full responsibility for abusing them and said he was “very proud of you for speaking up” and for “your bravery”. “I really hope that you prosper,” the man said.
Mr Kennedy said his client is deeply ashamed of himself and there is not a day goes by that he does not think and reflect on the hurt and devastation that he has caused.
Counsel said this is “a cross he has to bear” for the rest of his natural life, “no matter how the court sees fit to deal with the sentence” but acknowledged that his client is “the bearer of his own misfortune”.
He said “everything that most of us cherish in life, family, career, sense of community”, is now gone and said his client lives a modest and hermit style life since the revelations of the abuse.
“He wishes he could have turned back the clock but obviously he cannot do that,” counsel submitted.
Mr Kennedy said his client had struggled with alcohol addiction over the years and has used it as a coping mechanism as he has “struggled with his own demons”.
“He found himself in a place of deep despair and contemplated taking his own life, which spiralled after his arrest,” Mr Kennedy said, before he added this his client told his GP that he didn’t want to take his own life because he wanted his daughters to have the justice they deserve.
An investigating inspector told Mr Kelly that the teenager contacted her older sister in September 2021 and said she needed to talk to someone. She then revealed that she had been sexually abused by her father. They alerted their mother and the man was made to leave the family home.
The girl later told outlined the abuse to gardaí during a specialist interview. She said she had been sexually abused by her father from the age of three years old to 13 and physically abused by him since she was eight or nine years old.
She recalled the first incident of abuse occurred one morning when she went into her parents room and her father made her put her hand on his penis. She remembered she was wearing a pink nightdress.
She said the abuse generally occurred in her parents’ bedroom, the attic, the family car, the bathroom but mostly in her own bedroom.
She said her father had hurt his back and she was asked to give him back massages. Her other sisters confirmed that they were also asked to give the man back massages.
She said during these massages her father would kiss her body and sexually abuse her. As she got older, he suggested she shave her pubic hair.
The girl said her father abused her “pretty much every day”. The time of the day would be dependent on when he was working as he did shift work at the time but she said the day time incidences “were never as bad” because of the potential for somebody to walk in.
She said the abuse took the form of masturbating her father but also being forced to perform oral sex on him
She told gardaí that at about nine years of age she started to refuse to perform oral sex but he pushed her head. She found this form of abuse the most difficult to deal with.
She said her father began making inappropriate comments about her body as she got older and would touch and grab her breasts nearly every day. He would also assist her to shower.
She recalled a specific incident in 2014 while her mother was in hospital and her father directed her to sleep in his room. He abused her that night and she recalled the incident lasting for hours.
The girl also described the physical abuse she suffered at hands of her father which included him grabbing her by the hair and punching her. She recalled her sister running in to stop him beating her.
She told gardaí she always had “a mark on the back of her legs and bruises”. She said the physical abuse included punching and her hitting her off things which she said happened between the ages of five and eight years old.
In terms of the man’s treatment of his other daughters, the court heard that the eldest daughter also outlined that she was required to massage her father’s back and shave his back.
She described a pattern of being assaulted and the man chastising her. She recalled an occasion where he placed a pillow over her face after a biscuit tin had been broken. He had picked her up by the hair and swung her against the wall. He later apologised for his behaviour.
She recalled a further incident when she believed he was going to kill her as he was choking her. She recalled “everything going black”.
She said this kind of behaviour became normal and described wearing tights to disguise bruises.
She recalled another incident when her father had a knife in his hand and threatened to kill her. She kicked him in the privates and ran out of the house barefoot.
The second eldest daughter described being four or five years old and being struck very hard and beaten. She described her father as choking her and picking her up by the hair and knocking her off a wall.
She also recalled having her face covered with a pillow which caused blood vessels in her face to burst. She didn’t lose consciousness but she remember “seeing spots”.
This daughter said the abuse occurred from the age of six to 11 years old and recalled her father threatening to kill her a number of times.
The youngest daughter told gardaí in a specialist interview that her father hit from the age of four years to ten years old.
She recalled incidences of being grabbed by the hair and slapped in the face and her father threatening to beat her.
She said she was five or six years old when her father hit her probably about 15 times. She said she did not get hit as much as her older sisters did.