‘Fear was never a word in my life before’: 13 years jail for man who raped, beat, and imprisoned his niece

The Limerick City Courts complex on Mulgrave Street.

A LIMERICK court heard how a 58-year-old man raped and sexually assaulted his niece after locking her in a room in his home for a week and beating her with weapons including a hockey stick and an electric heater.

The 58-year-old man, who can’t be named to protect the anonymity of the victim, was found guilty of a total of 14 counts following a Central Criminal Court trial in Limerick in January and was sentenced to jail today (Friday).

The 14 counts included one of rape, one of false imprisonment, 11 counts of sexual assault, and one of making a threat to kill or cause serious harm.

He also pleaded guilty to four counts of assault causing harm. The victim is the man’s niece, and the offending occurred at a location in County Clare on dates in late January and early February 2022.

Ms Justice Siobhan Lankford noted the “protracted period” during which the woman was falsely imprisoned and that there were sexual assaults in advance of the single incident of rape.

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Taking the mitigation and the man’s personal circumstances into consideration, she imposed a sentence of 13 years with the final 18 months suspended. The judge also directed the man not to approach the woman in any way now or in the future.

Ms Justice Lankford directed that the sentence be backdated to February 14, 2022, when he entered custody.

At a previous hearing, the woman said in a victim impact statement that the man had “destroyed everything good in my life”.

She said her home had been “happy and safe”, and she did all she could to “protect her children”, but the man’s actions had changed her. She said she would never forgive him.

The woman said she thought they had a “normal niece-uncle relationship” and his actions had “destroyed” relationships within his own family.

She said she is in constant pain due to her injuries and suffers from flashbacks.

“Fear was never a word in my life before,” she said.

“I will never be the same person, but I will survive. I will never forget the monster you are. I hope you rot in hell”.

She said he would “never take my family from me,” and they had stood by her. She added that the man would never be part of the family again.

An investigating Garda told Lorcan Connolly BL, prosecuting, that the man and his niece started socialising and drinking on January 28, 2022.

This continued the next day, and they returned to the man’s house, where they engaged in consensual sexual activity before the woman said she wanted to go home.

It was at this point that the man assaulted her, striking her face. He also used a hockey stick on her legs, kicked her, and struck her with an electric heater.

The woman woke up to find herself lying under a couch after falling unconscious. The man was putting pressure on the couch, and she asked him to stop, which he did.

He asked her to stay and she went to a bedroom, where she remained for over a week. The woman was locked into the room and was unable to walk or move for several days due to her injuries.

The man provided paper cups for her to use for toileting. Over the following days, the man sexually assaulted her while she urinated. The court heard this occurred approximately six or seven times a day from February 2.

The man’s behaviour was erratic during this period. Using an accelerant, he set fire to the bed and curtains and switched off the electricity for short periods of time.

The court was told the woman was unable to escape using the back door as she had been led to believe by the man that it was electrified.

The woman asked to go to the hospital, but the man refused. He instead contacted a doctor and said he needed medication.

At one point, the man said he “better put glass on the floor” in case she started to walk.

The court heard the man asked the woman for sex and to masturbate him, but she was in pain. He raped her once on the Sunday after the initial assault.

The next day, the woman was more mobile and asked to return to her home to carry out some chores. The man brought her home and then took her to his house.

The court heard the woman had a phone with her, but it had no SIM card, and she was unable to connect to WiFi. She used the man’s phone to message one of her children, who came to the man’s house later that same day. The woman and her child were subsequently taken to their home by the man.

She later told her sister what had happened and was taken to a sexual assault treatment unit.

The woman sustained bruising to her face, head, ears, legs and abdomen. She also suffered damage to a tooth, and the man made up a story saying this was because she fell from a scooter.

The woman received messages from the man around February 8, which are the basis of the count of making threats to kill or cause serious harm.

He was arrested and admitted to the assaults. He denied the rest of the allegations and claimed the woman was an active participant.

The man has a number of minor previous convictions but none for sexual offending.

The investigating Garda agreed with Mark Nicholas SC, defending, that the sexual assaults did not take place every day while the woman was in the bedroom.

It was accepted that the man made admissions in relation to the initial assaults, and the victim gave evidence that he expressed remorse the following day.

It was further agreed that the man accepted there was sexual contact with the victim but said it was consensual. He also clarified the meaning of threatening text messages sent to the victim, which assisted Gardai.

The Garda also accepted that the victim was able to communicate with family members during the period in question.

Mr Nicholas asked the court to take into consideration the background of the case including that there was drink taken by both parties during their initial socialising.

He submitted to the court that there was no further violence after the initial assaults, which his client pleaded guilty to and which Mr Nicholas described as a “moment of drunk lunacy”.

His client has been in custody since February 2022, is on an enhanced prisoner regime and attends AA meetings while in custody.

His client has a work history and has two adult children, he said.

by Eimear Dodd