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'Highly manipulative' father jailed for raping daughter loses appeal

Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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'Highly manipulative' father jailed for raping daughter loses appeal

'Highly manipulative' father jailed for raping daughter loses appeal

A man jailed for repeatedly raping his daughter has been found to be a “highly manipulative” person and allegations that his daughter confessed to telling lies about him were “not credible”, the Court of Appeal has concluded. 

The 47-year-old man was found guilty of sexually assaulting and raping his daughter in various ways in County Mayo and abroad on dates between 2006 and 2010 when she was aged between seven and 11. Their details must not be published to protect the victim’s identity. 

The Central Criminal Court heard that the first rape took place shortly after the death of her mother. He referred to her by her dead mother's name and continued to do so during subsequent attacks, the court heard. 

Describing his offending as “depraved”, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment with the final year suspended. The man had pleaded not guilty to all offences and continues to maintain his innocence.

The Court of Appeal heard that the young woman visited her father in the Midlands Prison shortly after the trial. She told the court that she was “manipulated” into visiting her father in prison by his relatives on the basis that he was starving himself to death and was on his death bed.

In an affidavit, the father said he was “overjoyed to see” his daughter at a non-screened visit in the Midlands Prison and that he “did not blame her for what happened”. It was “highly emotional” and his daughter was “at all times affectionate and referred to me as dad”. 

“We spoke of all the good times we had together.” He said his daughter hugged him, kissed him and repeatedly said she was sorry.

She allegedly told him, he stated, that ‘I’m going to get you out of here dad; it’s all my fault and it’s going to be alright.’ 

The Court of Appeal upheld the man’s conviction on Friday concluding that evidence of the victim’s alleged confession was “not credible”. 

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice John Edwards said the man was “a highly manipulative and controlling person” while the victim was a “vulnerable person who is racked by conflicting emotions”.

“On the one hand she (the victim) yearns for a normal family relationship, including with her father, notwithstanding his abuse of her." This was evident from her willingness to maintain contact with her father, the judge said. 

“On the other hand, she wants to see him brought to account for those abuses and punished.”

Despite her conflicting emotions, he said the victim presented as “adamant that she was sexually assaulted and raped by her father” and was “determined … to stand over her claims”. 

Neither the man nor his current wife’s niece “impressed us as witnesses”, Mr Justice Edwards said. The man’s evidence, he said, must be regarded with appropriate scepticism and was likely “entirely self-serving”. 

Mr Justice Edwards said the alleged confession was “hotly disputed” with the victim “strenuously denying that she made any such confessions”. 

Moreover, she made positive statements to the gardaí that her evidence to the Central Criminal Court was true. 

Mr Justice Edwards said there was abundant evidence as to the victim’s vulnerability, and “malleability when under immediate pressure”. 

He said the victim’s visit to her father in prison was on an “understanding on her part that her father was imminently going to die either from self-starvation or by suicide”. 

It was entirely understandable therefore that she would visit the prison, under pressure from her father and his wife, and might agree to “saying that she had lied”. She explicitly said in evidence that she “did not want another life on her hands”. 

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Ms Justice Máire Whelan and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said the alleged evidence that the victim confessed to telling lies “fails the credibility test”. A motion to adduce the alleged confession as new evidence was dismissed. 

The man’s lawyers further submitted that the trial should have been halted after the jury heard the victim’s sister had made similar allegations against him. 

However, Mr Justice Edwards said the jury deserved to have the fullest possible picture. 

He said the offences were alleged to have occurred within a highly dysfunctional family. 

The man was a self-admitted alcoholic who regularly caused strife and grief in the household by reason of his drunkenness. There were allegations of domestic violence directed at his late wife, including banging her head off the mantlepiece. 

There were allegations of non-sexual child abuse such as locking his daughters in a room and leaving them with only Nutella to eat. 

Mr Justice Edwards said there was also evidence of psychological vulnerability on the part of his daughters. The victim was suffering depression and self-harming. She, in particular, “longed for parental affection and a positive parent-child relationship” with her father. 

The alleged rapes were said to have taken place in the midst of all this, while both girls were very young, leaving the victim “emotionally confused in her thinking and conflicted in her feelings towards” her father. 

Mr Justice Edwards said the allegation in respect of the victim’s sister was an “important piece of the jigsaw”. 

Having considered the numerous issues raised, Mr Justice Edwards said the court was satisfied the man’s trial was satisfactory and his conviction safe. 

During the hearing, the victim appeared via video link from the Vulnerable Witness’ Suite in the Criminal Courts of Justice building in Dublin. She told the Court of Appeal that she was “manipulated” into visiting her father in prison by his relatives on the basis that he was starving himself to death and was on his death bed.

Giving evidence to Alex Owens SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, the victim said said her father’s relatives were sending her messages after the trial “making it out that his life was in my hands".

She recalled one message which said "your dad is going to die and you're the only person who can stop that from happening”. In another message she was told "your dad has not much time left".

Her father has told the Court of Appeal that he assumed the purpose of her visit was "to say sorry”. In response to this, she said: “Why would I say sorry to him. I’ve no reason to say sorry to him.”

She said her father hugged her in the prison visitor’s rooms and that the prison visit lasted 30-40 minutes . "It all happened so fast. I still don't know exactly why I went to visit him.”

"This man believes his children were abducted from him for no reason and they were given drugs by social workers. He asked me to join forces with him and sue the state and it would make me a wealthy woman".

In a subsequent sworn affidavit, she stated “I did not say he was not a rapist” and “I did not say he did not do those things to me”. 

Under cross examination from the man’s barrister, Micheál P O’Higgins SC, the woman said she told her father in prison that she would withdraw her statement because she believed he was on his deathbed and would die in prison.

She agreed she said “yes” because at the end of the day, he was her father and “I wanted to believe what happened (the abuse) didn’t happen at all”.

"I cried for the whole [prison visit]. I didn't really talk. I didn't know what I was doing. I couldn't believe it... It wasn't me."

“I went into that prison as one girl and left as the girl I am now.” 

Under cross examination from Alex Owens SC, for the DPP, the man agreed the prison visit was “an emotional event” which lasted about 35 minutes. 

A couple of days prior to the visit, he said it was indicated to him by his partner that his daughter may be coming in to see him. 

He denied “absolutely” that the purpose of the meeting was to try to influence his daughter and “pull at her heart strings” to get him out of prison. 

"I wanted to see her; I was concerned for her welfare”. He said he was “positive” it wasn’t the other way around. 

“You were persuading her to drop everything,” Mr Owens suggested. 

“My view of the situation was I didn’t deserve to be in prison,” the man said. “She enquired how she could get me out of there.”

Mr Owens put it to him that his daughter came to see him because she believed he was on hunger strike and on his “last legs”. 

"Absolutely not. She came to me because she was full of remorse and guilt". There was "never a hunger strike", he said.

He said there were “various reasons” for her daughter to visit him in prison.

"She told me she was sorry. I told her I forgave her and she was forgiven, that she wasn't at fault.”

When asked what he hoped to achieve from the meeting, he said he “wanted to tell her I forgave her; alleviate the guilt she must be carrying; tell her I love her.

When it was put to him that his daughter denied having taken part in a “three-way” telephone conversation days after the prison visit, he said his daughter was a “pathological liar”.