SPEAKING OUT Victims Kelly Geraghty and Charlene Barrett spoke to SIx One News after the sentencing and are due to appear on TV3’s Midweek programme this Wednesday night:?Pic: RTÉ
Seven years in jail for child rapist ‘not enough’ say his victims
The two Bangor Erris friends who were raped and sexually assaulted by a local barman when they were just eight and nine years old have criticised the seven-year sentence handed down to their perpetrator.
Speaking outside the Central Criminal Court following the sentence in Dublin last Friday, both Kelly Geraghty and Charlene Barrett told reporters that they did not feel McDonnell had been given an appropriate sentence.
Kevin Owen McDonnell (39) of Adhann Or, Bangor Erris, Ballina was jailed for seven years after he was convicted by a jury of 16 counts of sexual assault and 13 counts of oral rape against one girl; and 14 counts of sexual assault, 13 counts of oral rape and one count of anal rape against the second child on dates between June 1999 and September 2000.
He had pleaded not guilty to the offences, which took place in a pub in Bangor Erris where Mr McDonnell worked and where the girls watched cartoons after school.
The two victims, who waived their right to anonymity so that their abuser could be named in the media, were disappointed with the sentence handed down by Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan.
“It is not enough for us for what he did to us. We will have to live with this for life and my god he is only getting five or seven years. It’s not enough, no ways,” Charlene Barrett, now 21, told reporters.
Ms Barrett (20) said the case had upset her family too: “It has upset a lot of people. We have gone through an awful lot. I am just glad we had the courage to come forward and do this.” Ms Barrett went on to encourage other sexual-assault victims to do the same. “Don’t hold it in, there’s no point. You can’t let someone live on with their life knowing that they did this to you and to let them away with it. It’s not fair.”
Kelly Geraghty said they had got ‘a bit’ of closure and she was relieved they could now get on with their lives. She added: “It has been hard to come forward … but we got the support from our family and friends and everyone at home. It’s not easy but it has been worth it, knowing that he is going to jail.” She also encouraged victims to come forward and ‘tell the world’ about what they had suffered.
Mr McDonnell was found guilty last month following a trial which lasted for over a week. The court heard harrowing details of how the man sexually assaulted the two girls and gave them cigarettes and cider. This was the second trial in relation to the case. The first jury was discharged in March 2010 when they could not reach a verdict.
Commenting on the women’s victim impact report, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said: “They showed great courage and resilience in giving evidence and I hope they are able to build on these qualities, and with help and support, go on to lead less troubled lives.”
He said the breach of trust involved in the case was not as great as in other cases, because the girls had not been entrusted into McDonnell’s care
Mr Justice Sheehan said he had taken into account McDonnell’s lack of previous convictions, his good work record and the fact that his ‘eventual [re]integration into real life’ due to the publicity of the case in the national media, would be difficult.
He sentenced McDonnell to seven years in relation to the anal rape count, six years for each of the oral rape charges and three years for the sexual assaults. He ordered that they be served concurrently and backdated the sentence to when he first went into custody after the trial.
Mr Justice Sheehan said he did not consider a post-release supervision order was appropriate having heard the evidence from Sergeant James Gill at the sentence hearing.
Shouts of ‘scumbag’ were heard in court as McDonnell was led away by prison officers.
Both girls wept and were embraced by their parents at the sentence hearing two weeks ago, as harrowing details of the assaults were read out by prosecution counsel, Ms Deirdre Murphy SC.
Sgt Gill told the court that all parties in the case were from the same small town in Co Mayo, and that the victims were best friends since ‘their first day of national school’.
The court heard that Charlene’s mother ran a hairdresser’s in Bangor Erris, next door to the West End pub where McDonnell was a barman.
Sgt Gill told the court that in September 1999 the girls developed a habit of watching cartoons in the lounge area of the pub after school.
It was there, in a secluded area of the lounge, that McDonnell first approached the girls and asked them had they ever seen a man’s penis and did they know what sex was.
The court heard that McDonnell then masturbated before forcing the girls to carry out sex acts on him.
There were emotional scenes as counsel detailed the ‘increasingly bold’ and ‘depraved’ nature and frequency of McDonnell’s attacks on the girls which occurred ‘two to three times a week for a year.’
The court also heard that throughout the 12 month period McDonnell threatened the girls to keep the abuse a secret and would regularly give them sweets and soft drinks.
Counsel described the offences as being on the upper end of the scale of seriousness and asked Mr Justice Sheehan to take into account the girls young age, the depraved nature and frequency of the attacks and the fact McDonnell abused both girls simultaneously.
Ms Geraghty said outside of court after the initial sentence hearing, that the memory of the abuse will never leave her and to this day she suffers from panic attacks and cries herself to sleep most nights.
She said: “I am full of anger and resentment for what he did to me. Every time I think about what happened I feel sick.”
“I cried every night for two years before I told my parents because I knew how much it would break their hearts. I will never forget the look on their faces when I told them. They blame themselves but they shouldn’t because I have the best parents and family I could ever ask for.
“I have to get on with my life and I am so glad I found the strength to come this far. I can only hope things will get better.”
Ms Barrett said that in the years after the abuse she would regularly see McDonnell around the locality and he would ‘stare and smirk’ at her. She said: “No matter the outcome the damage he has done to me will never leave me. I have to live with it for the rest of my life.”
Both Kelly Geraghty and Charlene Barrett are due to appear on the TV3 Midweek Live programme called ‘All Childhood Nightmare’ on Wednesday night at 10pm.