Around fifteen years ago in Duagh, Co Kerry, a man named Liam Sheehy raped a local woman in her car. She was giving him a lift home from the town when he pulled the handbrake and raped her.
During the trial a retired principal of the local community college gave character evidence on his behalf, as did the local parish priest, a supervisor in Munster Electronics and a well-respected veterinary surgeon. Despite this he was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to seven years in prison.
Although Sheehy had no personal involvement in what Mr Justice Morris called “disgraceful conduct by misguided persons” around Duagh in a campaign against the rape victim and her family, one did emerge.
Locals tell me the case caused a terrible split in the community, with the victim being shunned by many people who thought well of the offender. There is still tension between people in the area to this day.
Sheehy appealed the sentence to Central Criminal Court where three judges upheld the trial court’s ruling. Here’s an extract from The Irish Times’ report on the appeal…
Mr Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, for the DPP, said the sentence for a vicious and violent rape was justified. He submitted the judge was entitled to have regard to the way the defence was run.
Dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Keane, sitting with Miss Justice Carroll and Mr Justice Kelly, said this was a rape in the particularly serious category. Sheehy had perpetrated the crime in a remote area and when his victim escaped from the car, he pursued her and brought her back and raped her. For this type of offence, seven years would seem unexceptional and not wrong in principle.
Mr Justice Keane said Sheehy, having exercised his right to plead not guilty, then told a story which sought to blame his victim. The trial judge was entitled and obliged to take into account how the defence was conducted on the instructions of Sheehy.
The appeal court judges echoed the trial judge’s criticism of a campaign against the rape victim and her family. While accepting that neither the defendant nor his family were involved in that campaign.
Today, Anne Lucey reports in The Irish Times on a strikingly, and sadly, similar case in Listowel, less than 5 miles from Duagh. After the ruling dozens queued to shake the hands of the convicted man as he was brought from the court.
In her victim impact statement, the woman spoke of being “judged” in north Kerry, but said she was not sorry for telling the truth. Everyone in Listowel knew who she was, despite the press respecting her anonymity, she said.
“Even though my name has never been mentioned in the press, Listowel is not a big town and everyone knows it’s me,” the woman said. “I feel as if people are judging me the whole time. I’ve been asked by people I know if I am sorry for bringing Dan Foley to court. I am not sorry for it. All I did was tell the truth.”
The truth is an extremely powerful thing, which is why many people can’t accept it, or don’t want it to emerge. The people who shook the hand of a convicted sex offender outside the court yesterday clearly can’t accept it. Each one should take a look at that scene from a mental distance and ask themselves a series of personal questions.
One wonders what it takes to change that attitude. On the same day as Andrew Madden speaks – for the umpteenth time – about clerical rape and the resignation of Donal Murray, there is a piece about people who are judging, and proactively attempting to make life more difficult, for a rape victim who took the risk of persuing justice. There is something deeply depressing, that I can’t quite articulate, about the two stories being in the nation’s eyeline on the same day.
Footnote: I’m quite sure the Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre appreciates donations, no matter how small.
[This was also posted on IrishElection. Myself and Gavin are working on two big stories which we’ll bring to you soon. They’re worth waiting for we reckon, we’ve been working on both for a number of months and have had some breaks recently. Normal tax and politics coverage will resume shortly.]
[PS Not to mention, we’re busy, Christmas is looming. Even bloggers, and freelance journalists, take holidays.]