February 2011

Rape victim: he ‘took away my childhood’

Patrick Hegarty - Killarney

A KILLARNEY grandfather has received a seven year sentence with the final five suspended for repeatedly raping a schoolgirl during summer holidays in 1991.

Patrick Hegarty (67) a former pest control company employee of Ross Road, Killarney, was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury of nine rape counts and eight sex assault charges during a seven-day trial last month.

The jury acquitted Hegarty on a further six rape counts. He has no previous convictions.

Hegarty had pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of rape and eight counts of sexual assault of the then 15-year-old girl on dates between May and September, 1991.

The now 35-year-old victim described he “plied” her with alcohol, took away “my virginity, my dignity, my self-respect and childhood.”

She said she felt like something inside her died the day he first raped her, that the effects of the abuse led to an early breakdown of her first marriage and influenced her entering into destructive and violent relationships.

She said that at first she tried to find comfort in psalm 57 which reads: “And in the shadow of Your wings I shall find refuge” but ultimately felt abandoned by the “God of my childhood”, discarded her strict Catholic faith and turned to alcohol.

She said he violated her body and destroyed her life.

She revealed that she felt bitterness and resentment toward her own family, whom she felt had failed her, until she made her first formal complaint to gardai in 2006. Only then, she said, did she realise how much they supported her.

The woman said she suffered nightmares, depression and constant sadness, but decided to take the case to court because she felt her children deserved a mother and not an emotional wreck.

She thanked the gardaí in the investigation for their expertise and professionalism, the judge, jury and people of Ireland for letting her fight the case.

She concluded that she now feels she can start to move forward with her life.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan paid tribute to the victim’s statement which she read in court, saying it was “poignant, short, to-the-point and concludes on a courageous and hopeful note for her future,” and added that one could not help but be moved listening to her words.

In sentencing Mr Hegarty Mr Justice Sheehan said he took into account the serious nature of his crimes, balanced against his age and the character witnesses’ testimonials as part of the plea of mitigation.

The judge noted that an unusual feature of the case was that Hegarty wrote a letter of apology to the girl some time around 1994 when her father confronted him about the rapes.

Mr Justice Sheehan said that although the letter was written in general terms, he accepted that it was an apology for the sex abuse as put forward by the prosecution during the trial.

He said he had been put in a difficult situation because he had to take into account that prison life, as outlined in Judge Michael Reilly’s report, would be difficult for Hegarty and his family.

He directed that Hegarty be put on the sex offender’s register but said he didn’t think any post-release supervision was necessary in this case because the fatherof-four is unlikely to reoffend.

Earlier in the hearing, Detective Garda Sandra Kelly told Ms Marjorie Farrelly SC, prosecuting, that Hegarty had given the then 14-year-old girl alcohol and jewellery while she was over holidaying with her family the year before the rapes.

Det Gda Kelly revealed that the victim returned alone the following summer for a holiday and for work experience at her uncle’s B&B.

The night of the first rape Hegarty asked her to come with him in his van to collect one of his daughters from work at a local pub. He gave her a drink from a flask on the way to the premises, which the victim later told gardai, make her feel “weak all over”.

Det Gda Kelly said Hegarty then parked the vehicle, put the passenger seat back and told his victim he had “stuff to teach her” before raping her.

The court heard that he told his victim that nobody would believe her if she mentioned the rape to anyone and that he would say she had come on to him, when he asked her the next day if she recalled the incident.