A man who molested and raped his grand-niece 25 years ago has been jailed for seven years for the “enormous and gross breach of trust”.

The 66-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the victim's anonymity, was convicted of five offences after a jury trial at the Central Criminal Court last April.

He had pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual assault between November 1992 and December 1994 and two counts of rape between June and September 1994 at locations in counties Donegal and Dublin.

Sentencing the man today, Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan said the man had exerted enormous control over his victim and exploited her when she was a “young, defenceless and vulnerable child”.

“Sexual crimes can have exceptional, irrevocable consequences of a devastating nature on the victim, their families and the perpetrator and their families,” the judge said. She noted the man had expressed no remorse for his offending.

Handing down the seven year sentence, she accepted the man would have difficulty in prison given his age. He has no previous convictions and the court heard he has not come to garda attention since abusing his grand-niece.

The court previously heard that the victim was aged around ten when the man began kissing her and molesting her.

In the summer of 1994, when she was aged 12, he raped her twice. A second incident of sexual assault took place when she and her mother had come to Dublin and were staying at their relatives' home.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said that she felt dirty, angry and sick after the assaults. She said she would relive the rapes and abuse over and over again as a child.

She said she now suffers from panic attacks, flashbacks, anxiety and depression. She said this has affected her ability to work and to hold down relationships.

The woman said she is hyper-vigilant and protective around her children. She panics when they go swimming and won't let anybody else bathe them.

She said this has led to major rows.

She said that after her son was born she began seeing her attacker's face in her son and suffered post natal depression. She was unable to care for the child and she began counselling to deal with this.

“All my life I have felt that I was living in a prison,” she said, adding that she no longer feels a prisoner of her past because she has come forward about the abuse.

Patrick Gageby SC, defending, handed in a large number of testimonials from family and friends of the defendant. He said that his client has no other convictions and was of otherwise good character.

He said that his client's wife had health difficulties and was extremely reliant on her husband. He said the court was entitled to take this into consideration in sentencing.

Mr Gageby said that the woman originally made substantial complaints of repeated abuse at the hands of another relative, who has since died.

After the sentence was handed down, the man kissed and hugged his wife before being taken into custody.

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