Justice and the law


IT is hard to imagine how difficult it must be for the victims of rape and sexual abuse to come forward and tell their stories after years of silence and buried pain.

In Limerick this week, four survivors who were abused by a man who was put in the highest position of trust as a garda were finally heard and believed.


Likewise in Dublin, Fiona Doyle heard her father admit that he abused her for ten years.


In both cases, the now elderly abusers had a large portion of their sentences suspended but at least in the Limerick case, the former garda and scoutmaster John Joseph (Jack) Dunne will serve six months behind bars.


Fiona Doyle’s abuser, Patrick O’Brien is free to walk the streets pending an appeal.

But while there is outrage about the fact that someone who has caused such damage to his own daughter can walk free, there are legal reasons governing that decision. O’Brien was on bail before the court hearing which means that if he is to appeal either the decision or the sentencing, he has the right to bail while that process is in train, provided the court does not fear that he will re-offend.

But what’s needed are guidelines on sentencing which would make the likelihood of an appeal much slimmer.

What is also hard to stomach is that the court heard that in later years, Jack Dunne became involved with a religious order in Limerick where he received counselling for “sexual deviancy”.

This is the same church that has threatened Fr Tony Flannery, who is a former rector of the Redemptorists on Mount St Alphonsus, with excommunication for daring to suggest that women might be ordained and priests should have choice about celibacy.

As far as we know, no such threat is levelled at child sex abusers, clerical or otherwise.

Maybe the law isn’t the only institution to be blamed for failing victims.