Rape crisis charities have criticised the leniency of the sentence handed down to Tom Humphries.
The former Irish Times journalist was jailed for two-and-a-half years this afternoon for sexually abusing a young girl in his Dublin home after grooming her for two years.
He had pleaded guilty to the offences last March and the maximum sentence he could have received was five years.
MAX penalty for engaging in sex act with child just 5 years. Provided they're not a person in authority. Surely this needs to be increased?
— Frank Greaney (@FrankGreaney) October 24, 2017
Noeline Blackwell is from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre:
“We may need to look at sentencing as well but certainly just the implementation of sentencing is what is important about this case,” she said.
“A view was taken that because the person had had a high position and wasn’t anymore.
"That seemed to be the key that was deciding the length of sentence – not the level of harm that this man purposefully did many, many times to a small girl.”
She said the leniency of the sentence sends out a message about how Irish society recognises the impact on a “high profile middle class accused” over the impact on the victim.
“Having said that, the victim impact statement was mentioned, it was there and it is what I remember,” she said.
“That this girl’s childhood was taken from her.”
The sentence has also angered Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill – whose ex-boyfriend originally had his seven year sentence for raping her while she was asleep, suspended in full.
Magnus Meyer Hustveit was eventually jailed for 15 months after the Court of Appeal found the original sentence was too lenient.
Ms Ní Dhomhnaill said sentences like the one handed down today undoubtedly make it harder for victims to come forward:
“Whatever I have read seems to go into great detail in terms of how Tom Humphries has been affected by this,” she said.
“The judgement mentions that he has lost his livelihood and his reputation.
“The judge considered letters from family and close friends and considered the impact on his family and considered the impact on his family and noted his health issues.
“And at the very end – from the news report I have seen – there is a very small amount about the damage done and the harm done to the individual in question.
“It just feels like they don’t get it.”
During the investigation, it emerged Humphries first contacted the girl in Dec 2008 when she was just 14.
She told Gardaí she didn't know how he got her number but assumed it was through her local sports club.
After a few months, he began sending her explicit messages and photos and after two years of regular texting, he collected her outside her school and brought her back to his apartment where the court heard they engaged in sexual acts.
The girl, who is now in her early 20s, says she felt ashamed by what happened and was left depressed and suicidal.
Handing down the sentence this afternoon Judge Karen O’Connor said the young woman had lost most of her childhood and her innocence as a result of Humphries' actions.
The fact he initiated the contact, their disparity in age and status, and the nature of the sexual activity were all considered as aggravating factors.
She said she had a headline sentence of four years in mind but had reduced it based on his guilty pleas as well as his loss of reputation and livelihood.
Before sentencing him to two and a half years in prison, she said the higher the profile and success of a member of a society, the greater the fall.