Sympathies for a sex offender… again

Danny Foley - convicted today.
Danny Foley - convicted today. (Photograph The Irish Times)

Around fifteen years ago in Duagh, Co Kerry, a man named Liam Sheehy raped a local woman in her car. She was giving him a lift home from the town when he pulled the handbrake and raped her.

During the trial a retired principal of the local community college gave character evidence on his behalf, as did the local parish priest, a supervisor in Munster Electronics and a well-respected veterinary surgeon. Despite this he was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to seven years in prison.

Although Sheehy had no personal involvement in what Mr Justice Morris called “disgraceful conduct by misguided persons” around Duagh in a campaign against the rape victim and her family, one did emerge.

Locals tell me the case caused a terrible split in the community, with the victim being shunned by many people who thought well of the offender. There is still tension between people in the area to this day.

Sheehy appealed the sentence to Central Criminal Court where three judges upheld the trial court’s ruling. Here’s an extract from The Irish Times’ report on the appeal…

Mr Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, for the DPP, said the sentence for a vicious and violent rape was justified. He submitted the judge was entitled to have regard to the way the defence was run.

Dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Keane, sitting with Miss Justice Carroll and Mr Justice Kelly, said this was a rape in the particularly serious category. Sheehy had perpetrated the crime in a remote area and when his victim escaped from the car, he pursued her and brought her back and raped her. For this type of offence, seven years would seem unexceptional and not wrong in principle.

Mr Justice Keane said Sheehy, having exercised his right to plead not guilty, then told a story which sought to blame his victim. The trial judge was entitled and obliged to take into account how the defence was conducted on the instructions of Sheehy.

The appeal court judges echoed the trial judge’s criticism of a campaign against the rape victim and her family. While accepting that neither the defendant nor his family were involved in that campaign.

Today, Anne Lucey reports in The Irish Times on a strikingly, and sadly, similar case in Listowel, less than 5 miles from Duagh. After the ruling dozens queued to shake the hands of the convicted man as he was brought from the court.

In her victim impact statement, the woman spoke of being “judged” in north Kerry, but said she was not sorry for telling the truth. Everyone in Listowel knew who she was, despite the press respecting her anonymity, she said.

“Even though my name has never been mentioned in the press, Listowel is not a big town and everyone knows it’s me,” the woman said. “I feel as if people are judging me the whole time. I’ve been asked by people I know if I am sorry for bringing Dan Foley to court. I am not sorry for it. All I did was tell the truth.”

The truth is an extremely powerful thing, which is why many people can’t accept it, or don’t want it to emerge. The people who shook the hand of a convicted sex offender outside the court yesterday clearly can’t accept it. Each one should take a look at that scene from a mental distance and ask themselves a series of personal questions.

One wonders what it takes to change that attitude. On the same day as Andrew Madden speaks – for the umpteenth time – about clerical rape and the resignation of Donal Murray, there is a piece about people who are judging, and proactively attempting to make life more difficult, for a rape victim who took the risk of persuing justice. There is something deeply depressing, that I can’t quite articulate, about the two stories being in the nation’s eyeline on the same day.

Footnote: I’m quite sure the Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre appreciates donations, no matter how small.

[This was also posted on IrishElection. Myself and Gavin are working on two big stories which we’ll bring to you soon. They’re worth waiting for we reckon, we’ve been working on both for a number of months and have had some breaks recently. Normal tax and politics coverage will resume shortly.] [PS Not to mention, we’re busy, Christmas is looming. Even bloggers, and freelance journalists, take  holidays.]

8 thoughts on “Sympathies for a sex offender… again”

  1. I am currently trying to get over the shocking news of the way a poor woman from Listowel was treated by a large number of men yesterday in the court
    A local man found guilty of sexually assaulting her was awaiting sentence, was receiving good wishes and support in full view of his unfortunate victim
    This cave man mentality is outrageous and even more so when one hears that the local PP was one of these Gob****s that did this, as if to condone this assault in the first place
    As a Kerryman I want to send my full support to this wonderful woman, and commend her for her courageous action taken this thug on
    I was the victim of abuse by the Christian Brothers in St Joseph’s school Tralee in the 1960’s
    I know full well the trauma one goes through after this kind of assault
    All decent people should stand by this victim and support her
    The Clarke family
    Wicklow

  2. Being someone who know’s both parties in this case, I really don’t know what happened that night, but unless you are from listowel and know both parties you can’t judge the people who support either person. While I understand she is not the person on trial here, I do think that perhaps a true potrail of both people should be allowed in court. i am by no means saying that he is the inocent party here, and if he did do the crime he deserves everything he got, but when you are dealing with someone who has on serveral occasions accused different people of different crimes against her, which were never followed through because they were total fabrications of the truth, people find it hard to believe this to be true. I am fully aware that whatever your past you have the right to a fair trial. I think people are so confused as to what to genuinely believe. Yes danny is a popular lad and yes this does not make him innocent of the crime. It may sound really bad and I genuinely wish the girl all the best in the world, but would you be dancing in a nightclub on top of a table dressed in a mini skirt if this had just happened to you, or would you expect your sister to behave in this manner, i think not. Look I don’t know what actually happened on the night. I think they are the only two that do and one of them is lying, I just want people to understand that not everyone is on his side and applauding him and not everyone thinks she is that inoccent in the case either. everyone i spoke to about this is not sure what to believe. When you put two people side by side and they tell a story and one is know for fabricating all sorts. you may be swayed more to the other person.
    By the way I think it was very wrong for all those people to have shaken his hand in the court room, even if they were family, The court guards should have stopped this immediatly and the family should have been told “No contact with Danny until after
    the judge have made his desision and if things don’t go the way you want them you will be able to speak to him afterwards when the case is finished. Having said that i honestly don’t believe it was a planned thing, it was a spurr of the moment, caught up in the emotion of it thing.
    I’m don’t want to be biased on this, just wanted people to understand the feeling about town her which is confusion, and disbelief on both sides for various reasons, be they wrong or right.

  3. Mark,

    I am sure that I am not alone in believing that linking to material behind pay-walls, especially without clearly saying so, is not reader-friendly.

    However, you are already doing too much for us, so who’s complaining ? 🙂

  4. I remember the case of the woman in Daugh, who was also raped , her attacker was also found guilty by a jury of his peers, & up held by the appeals court, that woman & her family had to leave the area, her childern were shunned in school, parents telling there kids not to mix with them. daugh is just a few miles from Listowel. it is shocking that two cases with very similar treatment of the victim,
    Its a very sad day in modern irelad, where a woman is disrespected so badly, this man has been found guilty , there was evidence to charge him & send him to trial, we are in the year 2010 not 1810.
    15 years on from the Daugh case & still you make the same mistakes
    Co Kerry wake up, come into 2010,

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