November 2018

Waterford man jailed for abuse of two sisters and third female

A Waterford man has been sentenced to 10 years for the sexual abuse and rape of two sisters and a third female over the course of 12 years.

Stephanie Hickey (46) and her sister Deirdre Fahy (52), waived their right to anonymity at a sentence hearing last July so their brother-in-law Bartholomew Prendergast (66) can be named.

Reading from her victim impact statemen, Ms Hickey asked how the abuse could have continued when Prendergast, a well-known musican and former council worker, was “supposedly fixed” after a priest directed him to get counselling.

At the Central Criminal Court in July, Garda Patricia Lonergan told Michael Delaney SC, prosecuting, that after “something was brought to the attention of Stephanie’s parents”, a local priest was consulted and Prendergast was sent for counselling, but continued to abuse Ms Hickey afterwards.

All three women made statements to gardaí­ in December 2015.

Garda Lonergan said “various disclosures” had been made to different members of the families involved over the years, but nothing was ever done apart from the meeting with the priest.

Prendergast, a retired county council worker of Cruachan, Dungarvan, Co Waterford was arrested in April 2016 and interviewed three times.

He denied raping Stephanie Hickey and said he was both “vehement and definite in those denials”.

He pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the offences following a day of legal argument after a jury had been sworn in for his trial.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and 13 counts of indecent assault of Stephanie Hickey at locations in Co Waterford and Co Tipperary on dates between 1983 and 1987.

Ms Hickey was aged between 12 and 15 years of age at the time of the offences.

Prendergast also pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault against Ms Fahy on a date between 1979 and 1981, while she was aged between 13 and 14 years old.

He further pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault of a third woman, now 39 years old, on dates between 1988 and 1991, while she was aged between nine and 12 years old. This woman is aware that Prendergast will be named in reporting of the case but she does not wish to be identified.

On Monday, Ms Justice Eileen Creedon suspended the final 18 months of a 10-year prison sentence on strict conditions, including that Prendergast undergo a sex offenders’ treatment programme and be under the supervision of the Probation Service for 18 months.

She said it was clear that there was “a profound and negative impact on the victims” who were all left feeling “fear, guilt and shame”. She said Prendergast’s crime also impacted the women’s family lives and their own relationships.

“He was part of the inner family circle,” Ms Justice Creedon said before she added that the women were entitled to feel safe in Prendergast’s company and equally their parents should have been able to feel that their daughters would be safe with him.

The judge said the offences were “a serious breach of trust” and the women found “difficult to escape” from the abuse.

She also noted the evidence that the abuse continued despite a family discussion of it and an “intervention” from a local priest.