March 2017

Seven-year sentence for ‘most vile abuse’ of young girl

An elderly Co Roscommon man who forced his 12-year-old grandniece to watch a pornographic video so she could “learn how to do things better for him” has been sentenced to a total of seven years in prison.

Robert Sumner (76), with an address in Elphin, was given two consecutive sentences of three years and six months for what a judge described as “the most vile and damaging type of abuse to a female relative”.

The final 18-month part of the sentence was suspended.

Judge Keenan Johnson in Roscommon Circuit Court condemned what he called the “systematic and protracted” abuse perpetrated by Sumner upon the girl, whom he first sexually assaulted when she was aged nine and staying with him while on holidays from her home in England.

The now 25-year-old woman told the court her childhood and innocence had been stolen by the accused, whom she had regarded as a “granddad figure”.

After initially denying all but one of the charges against him, the accused had on the fourth day of his trial last December changed his plea. He admitted four counts of sexual abuse and one charge of sexual exploitation on dates between September 21st, 2000, and September 20th, 2004.

The exploitation charge related to an incident when the defendant had taken photographs of the girl when she had been aged 11, taking a shower.

Judge Johnson pointed out the accused had proferred money and gifts to the victim, and had on one occasion purchased underwear for her, which suggested “a level of grooming”.

Det Garda Dave McDonnell, who investigated the complaints which were first made to police in the UK, said the injured party had first met the accused when she was six or seven and was visiting Ireland with her family.

The court heard some of the offences were committed when the defendant visited the girl’s family in England. When forced to watch the pornographic DVD in her own bedroom, she had closed her eyes and covered her ears and was “singing a song in her head”, but Sumner had proceeded to sexually assault her.

Judge Johnson said the nature of the abuse was extremely serious, involving digital penetration and oral sex. He said it had a corrosive effect on the injured party’s life and development.

Paying tribute to the young woman for her “enormous courage”in pursuing the case, Judge Johnson said she should feel vindicated by the ultimate guilty plea and should take comfort from the fact the the accused would never abuse another child.

“She has done a great service, not only to herself but to other abuse victims, by reporting the crime to the police and seeing the prosecution through,” added the judge.

In her victim impact statement, the woman said her own children’s freedom had been curtailed because she was afraid to let them play outdoors unsupervised.

She said she could never forgive the accused but she hoped she would get closure and move on with her life a stronger woman.

Judge Johnson, who took into consideration the age of the defendant and his “previously unblemished record”, imposed consecutive sentences on two sexual assault charges, and took another two such charges into account. A concurrent four-year sentence was imposed for sexual exploitation.

The sentences were backdated to December 20th last when the accused was taken into custody.