A woman has been awarded €315,000 in damages by the High Court following prolonged sexual abuse at the hands of her parent’s friend, who was also her neighbour.
The plaintiff, who is now in her 30s, was only 15 when the defendant’s sexual advances began. Mr Justice Tony O’Connor described his conduct as ‘at its mildest, gross abuse of his position as a neighbour and friend.’
The defendant had groomed, bullied and threatened the victim, with his unwanted sexual advances only worsening when the plaintiff rejected him, eventually escalating to rape. For the following 18 months, the defendant forced his victim into sexual acts on a weekly basis.
He used threats to keep his victim under control, implying he was involved with the IRA, ‘bombarding her with texts, and threatening suicide if she did not comply with his requests.
Even after the defendant moved to another area, he would return occasionally and drive around his old neighbourhood, even standing in the victim’s garden on one occasion leaving her very frightened. The judge described his behaviour as ‘abhorrent’ and as having ‘no place in a civilised society’.
Mr Justice O’Connor opined that the abuse was intended to make the victim feel shame and guilt and was successful in doing so. The effects have been long-lasting. The plaintiff now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, is often subject to flashbacks, and has lost confidence in herself due to the attacks.
Mr Justice O’Connor stated the woman’s evidence indicated the sexual abuse had contributed significantly to ‘an irretrievable breakdown of her trust and confidence in all but a few people.’ The plaintiff also claimed for loss of opportunity as a result of the abuse, with Mr Justice O’Connor acknowledging what the woman could have achieved had she not suffered at the hands of the defendant.
The defendant, now in his 50s, is already serving a prison sentence for a number of sexual offences, including the rape of another woman.
The judge noted that the total lack of apology, admission of guilt or expression of remorse from the accused was an aggravating factor, exacerbating the woman’s distress and trauma.
Despite Mr Justice O’Connor’s criticisms, he was not willing to make an order freezing the defendant’s assets to prevent him from dissipating them.
According to the court, there was no evidence that the defendant intended to move his assets beyond the victim’s reach. The judge felt this necessary to protect the defendant’s due process; however, he did restrain the abuser from selling property he owns in southeast Ireland for the next 18 months. Both parties may apply to the court to seek to vary or remove the order if they wish.