A 68-year-old Derry man has been given a two-year jail sentence - with the last six months suspended - after he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three sisters and their friend over an eight-year period.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Court to nine counts of sexual assault at two different addresses in Donegal. The court heard that the man knew the sisters through a relative of theirs.
One of the victims was seven years-old when the abuse began. The assaults against the youngest victim spanned the longest period of time.
A garda told the court that the abuse came to light when one of the girls told a relative and the allegations were put to the accused.
The accused then made admissions to gardaí although the admissions were vague.
The victims did not appear at the sentencing hearing and did not make victim impact statements. The court heard that the three victims just want to put the incidents behind them. The garda told the court that there was guilt among the older victims that they did not come forward earlier so as to protect the younger victims.
The accused apologised in court to each victim for committing the offences and said he was deeply ashamed of what he had done.
Peter Nolan (BL) for the accused said he had pleaded guilty to the offences. He said that while any sexual offences against a child were abhorrent these offences “were at the lower end of the scale”.
Judge John O’Hagan described the age gap between the man and his victims as phenomenal and he disagreed that the offences were at the lower end of the scale.
He said the accused must have known that whatever he did to the young girls was wrong and was bound to have an effect on them in one form or another. He said there had been a breach of trust between the young girls and their families. What concerned him, he said, was that the assaults had lasted several years and he had moved from one victim to another. He said that if the accused that been convicted by a jury he would have faced a sentence of between three and four years. The judge sentenced the defendant to two years in prison with the last six months suspended.