A WEST Cork pensioner who told his nine-year-old granddaughter that her late granny would be displeased if she told anyone he was abusing her, has been jailed for four years.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin imposed a seven-year jail term – with the last three years suspended – on the 72-year-old, who was convicted of four counts of sexually assaulting his granddaughter.
The jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that the girl had been sent to visit her grandfather by her parents after the elderly man complained of being lonely following the death of his wife.
The girl, who gave evidence by video link during the four-day trial, told how her grandfather used to show her pornographic films and then get her to behave like the women in the films.
He also got her to play strip poker with him before he abused her and he warned her that if she told anyone, it would upset her granny in heaven as it would lead to him ending up in prison with rats.
There was also evidence during the trial that he also sexually assaulted the child while they watched Coronation Street in the family home where he lived alone after the death of his wife.
The man, who can’t be named to protect the identity of his victim, denied the four counts of abuse between July and October 2013 but was convicted unanimously by the jury in less than two hours.
He had been remanded in custody since his conviction last November for sentence last week when Judge O Donnabhain recalled the girl’s evidence which the jury said they had found ‘powerful and true’.
‘I thought she was very convincing and very well-grounded and to be absolutely believed on everything ... she remained calm and convincing during extensive cross-examination,’ the judge said.
‘The complainant was subjected on a repeated basis to dreadful, horrific abuse – you were showing her graphic abuse from your own store of material. This was an extremely loving, caring child that you abused. She was sent down to you because your wife had died and to comfort and help you. And you abused her in this base way,’ the judge told the pensioner.
‘I agree for once with the DPP, these offences were very much at the higher end of the scale, showing this young child pornographic videos and getting her to act them out is really dreadful.’
The victim said she was most hurt by the fact her grandfather knew what he had done to her but still put her through the ordeal of having to give evidence in the trial and he did not tell the truth.
‘You may have destroyed her innocence but you cannot deny her happiness,’ said the judge, noting the girl, now aged 12, told in her Victim Impact Statement how she wanted to travel and be happy. Asked by investigating gardai why she would have made the claims if they were untrue, the man told gardai at interview she was being put up to it for money because her parents had financial troubles.
The judge noted the accused had opted not to give evidence during the trial but another member of his family made a similar claim the girl had been put up to it by her parents to get money from him. This witness claimed the girl’s parents had concocted the complaint to extort money but this was ‘an outlandish defence’, said the judge.
Judge Ó Donnabháin noted a submission by defence counsel, Chris Meehan SC, that the accused was in poor health, while he also accepted he had no previous convictions.
Mr Meehan said that his client continued to maintain his innocence of the offences with which he had been charged, and of which he had been convicted by the jury who tried the case in November.
Judge O Donnabhain said he accepted Mr Meehan’s submission that the defendant, who had worked for a local voluntary organisation, would now suffer a loss of reputation in the community.
But there were also aggravating factors, including the huge difference in age between the defendant and his victim, and the huge breach of trust by him when he was in a position of care towards her.
One feature he looked for in such cases was remorse and what struck him most pointedly about the accused in this case was his complete lack of remorse for what he had done to his granddaughter.
He said that he had shown ‘an absolute and dogged determination’ to deny the charges and the absence of any remorse mitigated against him when it came to imposing a sentence, he said. He sentenced him to seven years’ jail, backdated to November 27th when he went into custody. And he suspended the final three years and ordered he be placed on the sex offenders’ register.