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  1. DPP -v- Drought

Case number: CCC1


Case title: D.P.P. v. Drought


Date: May 4th, May 2007


Neutral Citation: [2007] IEHC 310 


Judgment: Charleton J. 


Composition of the Court: Charleton J. 


Keywords: Rape – appropriate sentence – aggravating and mitigating factors – plea of not guilty


Summary: The accused was convicted of one count of raping a student who was drunk when the attack occurred. The victim met the accused in a nightclub and raped her in a doorway after leaving the club together. The accused pleaded not guilty.


In considering sentence, Charleton J. noted that rape ordinarily attracts a custodial sentence (The People (Director of Public Prosecutions) v. Tiernan [1988] 1 I.R. 250 considered). He also held that there was no principle of Irish Law that an early plea of guilty alone would be such an exceptional circumstance as to justify a non-custodial sentence (s. 29 of the Criminal Justice Act 1999 considered).


In considering a number of cases in which sentences had been imposed in respect of rapes, Charleton J. first considered those cases where sentencing had been lenient. He noted, after considering these cases, that a suspended sentence for rape could only be contemplated where the circumstances of the offence were such as to be completely exceptional so as to allow the Court to approach sentencing in way that deviates from the norm. He also commented that there was no reported case of the Court of Criminal Appeal ever indicating that it was wrong to have imposed a custodial sentence in the case of rape and that, at the most, the Court of Criminal Appeal had suspended the balance of a sentence after some time had been served in imprisonment, and then only in the most extraordinary circumstances.

He went on to consider cases where heavier sentences – three to eight years – had been imposed. He suggested that the decided cases tended to indicate that where there has been a worse than usual effect on the victim, where particular violence has been used or where there are relevant previous convictions, such as convictions for violence of some kind, the perpetrator may expect to receive a sentence of eight years imprisonment, or more if the circumstances are sufficiently bad. He went on to note that the reports tended to indicate that where a perpetrator pleaded guilty to rape in circumstances which involved no additional gratuitous, humiliation or violence beyond those ordinarily involved in the offence, the sentence tended towards being one of five years imprisonment. The substantial mitigating factor of a guilty plea, present in such a case, suggested that such cases would attract around six to seven years imprisonment where the factors of early admission and remorse coupled with the early entry of a plea of guilty, were absent.

Charleton J. also considered those cases where rapists had been sentenced to between nine and fourteen years and those where the perpetrator had been sentenced to fifteen years up to life imprisonment and he noted that these included gang rapes and cases where there had been an abuse of trust.

He identified the following as aggravating factors: the use of special violence more than usual humiliation or where the victim is subjected to additional and gratuitous sexual perversions, abuse of a position of trust, abuse of a particularly young or old or vulnerable victim, gang rape, cold campaigns of rape, death threats or the use of implements of violence. He noted that the case law indicated that the most common mitigating factor in rape cases was an early admission of guilt.

The offender’s background and any previous convictions were also relevant to sentencing in rape cases.

In this case, the accused had not pleaded guilty and could be treated as a person who showed no regret as to his offending and no insight into his behaviour. He noted the nature of the attack and the impact on the victim and found that the case was at the upper end of the normal range. He sentenced the accused to seven years imprisonment with the last 18 months suspended provided that he attend counselling in prison and remain post-release supervision for the 18 months. He was also to be registered as a sex offender.