Arts & Entertaiment
Rape, even typing the word is difficult. It is a horrible, heinous crime for which there can be little tolerance, for it is a crime which destroys lives. The innocent victims will spend the rest of their lives attempting to overcome the physical and mental emotion related to their ordeal, and some unfortunately succumb to the pressure of their ordeal. Imagine the disgust, anger, and ultimate insult the victim must feel when a judge does not impose the necessary sanctions. When I heard of the decision handed down Niamh Ni Dhomhnaill case, I thought I had misheard. The accused was only guilty because of the fact that he had written to Miss Ni Dhomhnaill confessing to using her "body for my (his) gratification". Judge McCarthy went on to say that this was "a very exceptional case" and that he had to consider the fact that "there would be no rational case, but for this confession". So, let me get this straight. A man accused of rape confesses to the use of her body against her will for his own pleasure, and yet there's no rational case to answer for? Hence, the suspended sentence? It's outrageous that this would be the conclusion of a rape case. Woman accuses man of rape, man confesses, but judge gives suspended sentence. I'm assuming, and I'm not an expert of the law, is that the assumption of them being in relationship, and that the victim was asleep during these attacks, clouds the issue for the judge. As in, there is no definitive proof that the victim would have said "no" had she been awake. But, and it's a huge "but", she wasn't awake. He took advantage and admitted that he has used her body against her will. Rape is Rape. Not half rape, misunderstood Rape or even unintentional Rape. The accused was fully aware of his actions, and what he was doing. His confession admitted as much. To add insult to injury, it appears that this judge was reluctant to find the accused guilty, and in turn suspended the sentence. This case follows appalling on from the Fiona Doyle case. Found guilty of raping his daughter consistently for 10 years, Patrick O'Brien was jailed for 12 years, with 9 suspended. And then bailed. His reasoning was that he was "trying to find a balance between branded as a trial judge who substituted one injustice for another" if he imposed a full custodial sentence or "it will go out in the soundbites, as these things do, that in one of the most serious cases of serial rape of a daughter, the man walked" if he handed down the sentence of suspending 3/4's of the sentence. Which he did. Excuse me your honour, but the judgement wasn't, nor should it have been about what the media wrote or thought about you. It was about the search for justice, and of a guilty criminal being handed a sentence befitting his crime. For that's what O'Brien was once you found him guilty; a criminal. Should his 'justice' have come into your judgement? Of course not. This evil man raped his own daughter multiple times. Just let that linger. His own daughter. Multiple times. No excuses, justice must be served for both parties. You cannot judge on the accused fate without considering the victim. In 2014, we had another appalling case mishandled when Anthony Lyons was sent back to jail because the trial judge had given undue weight to "the totality of mitigating circumstances" when he sentenced Lyons to 6 years, suspending 5 and half of the six. Lyons had attacked a woman, rugby tackling her to the ground, and physically assaulting her, only being stopped by a passer by intervening. Lyons had fled the scene only to be arrested close to his home. Lyons initially pleaded not guilty, but then admitted the assault citing the "irresistible urge" was brought on by a cocktail of alcohol, cholesterol medicine and cough syrup. One wonders if he coughed when offering up that excuse. He was duly sentenced to 6 years, with 5 and half suspended for "mitigating circumstances". These included having already paid his victim €75,000 and being branded Mr Cholesterol Medicine forever more. The poor chap. It only took him 4 years to admit his guilt, and yet he's now down a cheque and has notoriety to contend with. The three examples cited above are just the tip of the iceberg unfortunately. Thirteen years ago, the Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland report stated that only one in ten victims of sexual crime reports the crime. Of that one in ten, only 7% secures a conviction. So seven of a hundred cases sees a conviction. 0.07%. And of these 0.07%, how many sentences are of a lenient nature like the ones listed above? We have used three examples from 3 years, and neither case helps the statistics to help victims come forward. To be balanced, there are unfounded allegations, and in these cases the victim status transfers to the wrongly accused, and their innocence is rarely trumpeted. Herein lies another crux of the situation; what price the fair acquittal of an innocent defendant? Who champions their case, and if it is championed do you obstruct a victim from coming forward. How does one strike a balance between punishing the guilty in a fair and equitable manner, and not marginalising the victim? On the flip side, how does one manage to do that and not provide a cover that defendants use to hide behind? One thing for certain is that victims of sexual assault must come forward. We all know someone who has been a victim of sexual assault. Be honest, how do you view them? Pity, anger, distain, incredulity? All of these? And that is only for the fleeting moments in which you encounter the victims. The victims have to live with this trauma for the rest of their lives from the moment the assault begins. Horrible, life changing assaults for the victims. No one understands the anguish which they live their daily lives. How this assault affects the victims well being, the people the victims love, and how the victims love the victims loved ones. You will notice that I haven't used "their" to describe the victims. Each victim has been subjected to their own individual ordeal and deserves to be treated with respect. I haven't been abused nor assaulted, so I cannot begin to understand how a victim lives their daily lives, but I do know that it must take huge courage to even get up in the morning. And then go on to live that day. We take such mundane tasks for granted, such as getting up and going about our business. Imagine struggling to get up? Imaging each day just being the beginning of your troubles? I truly wish the justice system would consider it. Once guilt has been proven in a case, as in all three cases listed, wouldn't it be great if the justice system just took the victim into account. Just the victim. Not the guilty. Just the victim. Hand down a judgement that takes the victims daily trials into account. Imagine the difficulty Miss Ni Dhomhnaill must now have in merely attempting to go to sleep. One wonders if the judge had, would the sentence have been different?