November 2009

Judge gives man three years for kidnap and sexual assault of girl

A 45-year-old Tipperary man who kidnapped and sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl after driving her to a remote woodlands in County Offaly nine years ago has been jailed for three years by Mr Justice Barry White.

Joseph Finnerty of Grove Villas, Roscrea, was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury last month following a six-day trial. 

He had pleaded not guilty to one charge of falsely imprisoning the now 23-year-old woman in a car on November 6, 2000 and counts of aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault against her on the same date.

Mr Justice White had directed the jury to find the accused not guilty of aggravated sexual assault after medical evidence in the case concluded that the physical injuries the girl sustained were consistent with sexual assault but not with rape.

Mr Justice White rejected an application from defence counsel Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, to defer sending Finnerty to jail until after Christmas so he can spend the time with his elderly mother.

Sergeant Aidan Farrelly told Mr Paul Coffey SC (with Ms Dara Foynes BL), prosecuting, that a victim impact statement prepared by a senior psychologist with the Health Service Executive concluded that the woman is suffering from chronic post traumatic stress which is both “serious and enduring”.

The statement said that the girl had been happy with no worries before the incident but has since become anxious and hyper-vigilant. 

“The world she had known has changed forever”, the report said. She has taken an overdose and considered hanging herself and is no longer able to be left on her own. 

Sgt Farrelly said Finnerty had phoned the girl and her boyfriend that night and asked them to join him for a drink in local pub with a friend of his. The group went on to another pub before Finnerty asked the girl’s boyfriend to drive them back to his friend’s house.

He then told the boyfriend to go out to the house with his friend and made the victim remain in the car before he started driving away slowly.

The girl tried to get out of the car but Finnerty grabbed her by her ponytail and pulled her back into the vehicle. 

He then drove up to an area known as Glassderry Wood, ordered her to undress and made her put her feet on the dashboard.

Sgt Farrelly said that the victim told gardaí that Finnerty then had sex with her twice, kissed her, bit her earlobe and rubbed his beard against her face. He also sexually assaulted her by digitally penetrating her vagina.

Finnerty then drove the girl back to her boyfriend’s house, where she was found in a distressed state and the gardaí were called a few hours later. She was later treated in hospital for several bruises to her face and body.

Sgt Farrelly said Finnerty had 25 previous convictions, which included three assaults, road traffic offences and criminal damage. 

Mr Justice White said it was clear to him that the offence had “a profound affect on the victim”. 

He noted that Finnerty’s previous convictions demonstrated a “history of violence” but accepted that in the nine years since it took for the matter to come to trial he has not committed any similar crimes.

Mr Justice White accepted that Finnerty is the carer for his elderly and ill mother but noted that he also has a sister and partner who are willing to look after the woman.

He said that Finnerty had a right to fight his trial but said he was not entitled to the credit he could have got, had he admitted his guilt and prevented his victim from going through the ordeal of giving evidence and undergoing cross-examination. 

Sgt Farrelly agreed with Mr Hartnett (with Mr Micheál O’Connor BL), that Finnerty has a 13-year-old girl from a previous relationship and a five-month-old son with his current partner. 

He said he was not aware that the accused was the sole carer for his elderly mother.