July 2018

Woman describes how horse trader ended her dream of becoming a vet when he raped her

A Laois woman has described how a local horse trader ended her dream of becoming a vet when he raped her during her school holidays.

The now 41-year-old woman said John Phelan (54) changed the entire path of her life when she took a summer job with him looking after animals on local farms.

The woman, who waived her anonymity so that Phelan could be named, said the job she had taken hoping to prepare for her future, instead led to the end of her dreams.

Phelan of Kilbricken, Mountrath, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to four charges of sexual assault and two of raping the woman when she was aged between 14 and 16 years at various locations in Laois, including at his home, on dates between 1992 and 1993.

He entered the pleas after the trial had commenced and the woman had given her direct evidence, but before she underwent cross-examination.

Phelan, a married father-of-two, served a seven year sentence from 2008 for raping and sexually abusing a young girl in 1989 and 1990 when she was between nine and 11 years old.

He was convicted by a Circuit Court jury earlier this month of sexually assaulting another girl on two occasions in 1992, when she was 11 years old, and is awaiting sentence in relation to that.

Garda Michael Kennelly told Patrick McGrath SC, prosecuting, that Phelan’s young neighbour had an interest in animals and asked if she could work with him during school holidays in 1992.

After the first few days, Phelan began asking the then 14-year-old personal questions about her boyfriend that made her uncomfortable. This progressed to kissing, fondling her breasts and vagina and digital penetration.

Gda Kennelly said although the teenager was embarrassed and uncomfortable, she didn’t want to lose her job.

The garda told Mr McGrath that on one occasion Phelan told the girl to bring swimwear so they could go swimming. The one-piece she wore that time made it difficult for Phelan to grope her so she wore it on subsequent occasions to offer her some sort of protection.

The garda said Phelan was almost caught molesting the girl by his wife and a local premises owner and this gave him “a thrill”.

The court heard that from mid July 1992 Phelan raped the teenager on two occasions. The first time was at a farm Phelan had been looking after and the second time was in an animal feed room at a derelict cottage.

Phelan told the girl to relax when she found the second attack extremely painful. He assured her it would “get easier after a while”. The woman didn’t tell anyone about the offences because she was scared and Phelan was her neighbour.

In her victim impact statement, which she read in court, the woman said when she heard Phelan was out of prison she asked herself how she could “protect him with my silence and feelings of guilt and shame”.

She said too many people had been impacted by Phelan’s “selfish and cruel twisted desires”.

The woman revealed that she had always considered herself a strong person but despite all her “bravado” she eventually had to seek help for depression. She said a deep mistrust in men had been ingrained in her and she lost the bond with her father for life.

She described being constantly on alert around young girls because her own parents missed the signs of her abuse. She told the court she dreaded writing a victim impact statement as she is not a victim, but a survivor.

The woman paid tribute to Gda Kennelly, who “became my guardian angel and friend for life”.

“Without his true kind manner and unending patience, I could not do what was needed”, she said, commending the garda’s professionalism over the four years dealing with the case.

She also thanked the Tullamore Rape Crisis Centre, other gardaí on the investigation team, the DPP and her friends and family.

Gda Kennelly agreed with John Peart SC, defending, that Phelan had worked throughout his life. The garda accepted that Phelan attended and completed a sex offenders course while in prison.

The garda further accepted that Phelan made a full expression of remorse to his probation officer.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy remanded Phelan in custody and adjourned the sentence till October, when she will hear a full plea of mitigation from the defence.

January 2008

Laois man gets seven years for sexual assault

A married Laois man, who sexually assaulted a young girl over a number of years, has been jailed for seven years by Mr Justice Paul Carney at the Central Criminal Court.

John Phelan (43) of Kilbrecken, Mountrath pleaded guilty to seven sample charges of indecent and sexual assault on the victim on dates from April 1989 to March 1992 in County Laois. 

Mr Shane Murphy SC (with Mr Michael Bowman BL), prosecuting, told Mr Justice Carney that the victim was satisfied her identity wouldn’t be revealed by Phelan being named in media reports.

Sergeant Brendan Fitzgerald told Mr Murphy that Phelan’s offending involved incidences of him putting his penis in the victim’s mouth as well as getting her to touch his penis with her hands. He said Phelan had no previous convictions and came from a good family.

The victim who stared straight into Phelan’s eyes when she walked from the witness box after making her impact statement said he had “tainted my childhood and life” and that she had lived with the torment of it for many years before reporting it.

She said that because “it is such a personal crime between two people” she had great difficulty speaking about it with her family and friends”. 

Her family had been devastated by her revelations and she still had “feelings of uncleanness” to this day as well as finding it difficult to trust men or be comfortable in male company.

She said she was aged nine to 11 years when abused by Phelan and thought at first it was natural. She was “so young and naïve” she didn’t understand “exactly what was happening and didn’t question his behaviour. 

She was “no match for him and couldn’t push him away” and she recalled running to the bathroom “to scrub my hands” after touching his penis. She said she still suffered from feelings of uncleanness to this day.

“It was only some years later that I realised he had taken advantage of me,” she said. She took the case eventually to add her voice to all who wanted to put a stop to this type of offending so that no young child would have to endure it in the future. 

“There are no winners in this case,” she said. “His guilty plea last October was 16 years too late and he has never shown me any sign of remorse.”

Mr Patrick Gageby SC, defending, submitted that were it not “for these deplorable matters” Phelan would be considered “an upright person”. He had ceased offending some 16 years ago and was genuinely remorseful as indicated in his own written apology and in the testimonial from his parish priest.

Mr Justice Carney noted that indecent assault used to carry a 10-year sentence while currently sexual assault had a five-year maximum term. 

He said he would normally have regarded five years as the sentence for indecent assault but wouldn’t do so in this case due to the oral sex offences which were now covered under Section Four of the 1981 Rape Act as “aggravated sexual assault” with a possible life sentence.

He felt that the oral sex offence in this case merited a 10-year sentence considering the facts as outlined and the disparity in the ages of Phelan and the victim at the time. 

Mr Justice Carney said that discounting such factors as he must do in Phelan’s favour, he imposed a seven-year term on the indecent assault count and five years on the remaining sexual assault counts with all the sentences to run concurrent. 

He directed that Phelan be registered as a sex offender and that he should undergo five years post-release supervision.