- DPP -v- H.
Case number: CCC2
Case title: DPP v. H.
Date: October 15th, 2007
Neutral Citation:  IEHC 325
Judgment: Charleton J.
Composition of the Court: Charleton J.
Keywords: multiple counts of rape – minor - stepdaughter – mitigating factors –delay – plea of not guilty
Summary: The accused was convicted of a number of sexual offences, including several counts of rape against his stepdaughter, who was aged between four and eleven years at the time of the offences. The rapes occurred when she was between the ages of seven and ten. He did not plead guilty at his trial which took place over twenty years after the offences.
Charleton J. rejected the idea that he should apply sentencing principles derived from history, as if the Court was sentencing this offender in 1986, as it might have been. (D.P.P. v. J.(T.) (Unreported, Court of Criminal Appeal, 6th November, 1996, The People (D.P.P.) v. Patrick O’Connor 28th May, 2003, The People (D.P.P.) v. Terence Hudson, 27th July, 2000 and The People (D.P.P.) v J.M.,  1 IR 363 considered.)
What was important was to assess whether the accused had shown any remorse; any insight into the nature of his offending and how it impacted on the victim; and whether his life in the interval between perpetrating the offences and sentencing has been marked by factors which could legitimately be taken into account in the sentencing process. Absence from reoffending was one relevant factor and pursuing an ordinary life of work and good conduct another. Following a life devoted to others might provide particular evidence of remorse and rehabilitation prior to the intervention of the criminal process. (The People (D.P.P.) v. Drought  I.E.H.C. 310 followed.)
Charleton J. considered a number of authorities dealing with sentencing for sexual offences that had taken place in the past. The approach he identified in these cases was as follows:
The actual circumstances of the offences should be analysed as if they had happened recently. The penalty should be fixed taking into account the ordinary factors, including the offender’s behaviour; the effect of the offences on the victim; the depth of depravity and the period of time over which the crimes were committed.
The ordinary principles of mitigation and aggravation should be applied to the circumstances of the case.
In terms of settling on the final tariff of sentence, the offender’s conduct in the intervening years will be of particular importance.
The age and health of the offender should be looked at.
An offender is not to be sentenced for episodes of depraved offending, such as further sexual abuses alleged by other offenders, which occurred between the commission of the offences before the court and a sentencing hearing.
In considering punishment, an offer of hope may be appropriate, while following the appropriate precedents as to sentence, in order to encourage rehabilitation.
The circumstances of the offender were then considered – he was 60 years old and had problematic health. As a result of a fall, he had recurring intermittent back pain and heart problems and feared he may end his life prematurely, as bad health ran in his family. His age would make a sentence more severe for him than for a younger man.
He had spent a life of normal and mostly part time work. He had two family relationships which failed. He now had a supportive partner. He had maintained some contact with three of his children and a tenuous relationship with some others. He had had a tough life as an emigrant before returning to Ireland when he worked intermittently and was capable of hard work.
His new partner had health problems too and travelling to visit him could be a problem, depending on the location of imprisonment.
The most important factor, without which, a sentence in the highest range would apply, was that the offender had no charge laid against him outside his own family, and there appeared to be no offending for 20 years or so.
He was unable to discount the offender’s sentence for the most important reason of admission of guilt.
Having read the report on the offender from the Central Mental Hospital, a longer than usual post supervision period was called for.
The offender was sentenced to ten years imprisonment with the last three years suspended on his undertaking to enter into a bond to keep the peace and on condition that he should enter a course of counselling as a sex offender during his time in prison and should be subject to the direction of the Probation Service for those 36 months on his release.
He was also registered as a sex offender.