August 2015

Westmeath man jailed for 10 years for raping girl (14)

A Co Westmeath man has been jailed for 10 years for raping a teenager in a field after she had been walking to her friend’s house.

Martin Stokes (24) was convicted on Tuesday after a 17-day trial during which he called the girl (14) a liar and claimed she was an enthusiastic consenting party.

Stokes, of Corkhill, Kinnegad, was linked to the crime through his DNA and about 10 witnesses who saw him in the area at the time.

He initially denied even knowing the girl, but when the case came to trial for a second time he claimed he had consensual sex with her.

In his last case before retirement, Mr Justice Carroll Moran said that in his 18 years on the bench he had never seen such “obvious mendacity”.

He said he wondered what effect Stokes’s lies had on the jury, who might otherwise have acquitted him.

“If he continues to protest his innocence, he cannot be surprised when no one believes him because of his history of lying,” the judge said.

Mr Justice Moran imposed a 12-year sentence, with the final two years suspended on strict conditions.

He ordered that Stokes have no contact with the victim or her family, including by social media, and that he registers his address with gardaí­ on his release.

Stokes initially refused to enter an oath to comply with these conditions, saying: “I’m not signing no bond. Give me the two [years] on top.”

After a short discussion with his counsel he agreed to enter the oath, but added: “I swear on this bible that I’m appealing this.”

During the trial, the defence used posts from the girl’s Facebook account and texts messages about her sexual history in an attempt to disprove her story.

They presented one Facebook post by the girl which read “can’t believe I lost my best friend over a lad”, which was uploaded after the rape and referred to a fight she had with her friend over a boy from their peer group.

Over the course of two and a half days of cross-examination, defence counsel Padraig Dwyer SC put text messages to the victim in which she describes performing sex acts with a boy.

She denied she had carried out the acts, saying: “It looks like that but I didn’t do it. Maybe I was trying to act cool to my friends at the time and I was silly and stupid.”

The prosecution told the jury that these messages were part of the “unreality of social media”.

At the sentencing hearing on Friday, Pauline Walley SC, prosecuting, submitted that the cross-examination was an ordeal for the girl and that Stokes had characterised her as a liar.

In her victim impact statement, which she read to the court herself, the girl said she suffered “a horrific sexual attack”.

She said she now suffers from panic attacks, anxiety and depression and that she started self-harming after the rape. She also has suicidal thoughts.

She said her teenage years had been taken from her and that she and her family had to move towns because of the rape.

During the trial, Stokes had several outbursts as he sat in the defendant’s area. At the sentencing hearing, he appeared to be getting highly agitated until the judge allowed his father to sit with him in an effort to calm him down.

In her submission to the court, the girl said one of Stokes’s outbursts during the trial had caused her to have a panic attack.

The prosecution told Mr Justice Moran the victim would like the accused to be named publicly.

The defence argued this would have a negative effect on Stokes’s large family, but the judge said this wasn’t a good enough reason to not identify him.

Counsel said Stokes left school early and did handywork around his area. He said he has a wife and son but has not seen them since he was charged.

Mr Dwyer added he could not offer an apology for the rape because Stokes does not accept the verdict of the jury and intends to appeal.