Irish sex case man sentenced to 14 years

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The Independent Online
A Dublin businessman at the centre of the case which created an international outcry over Ireland's abortion laws was yesterday jailed for 14 years for unlawful sex with a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

Barristers said the sentence of two seven-year terms for unlawful sex to be served consecutively was the highest in living memory. The man, aged 44, who changed his plea to guilty shortly before his conviction last month before Dublin's Central Criminal Court, also received a 12- month sentence for indecently assaulting the girl.

Controversy over what became known as the 'X' case led to a constitutional referendum after the pregnant girl was barred by the Dublin High Court in February 1992 from travelling to Britain for an abortion.

The Supreme Court overturned the travel ban and in effect ruled abortion could be legal in Ireland. It held that a possible risk of suicide by a pregnant woman denied a termintion amounted to a 'real and substantial threat' to her life.

The case forced the Dublin government to put the right to travel and to obtain information on abortion to a referendum in November 1992. The poll secured both rights, while voters rejected a third proposal to ban abortion except where the woman's life, as opposed to her health, was at risk. Six other charges were dropped last month when the man entered a guilty plea to having sex with her on several occasions when she was between the ages of 12 and 14. The court directed that neither the accused nor the victim be identified to protect the girl's family, who had been neighbours and friends of the accused man.

The first incident of unlawful sex occurred when the girl was staying with the man's family while her parents were on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. The court was told he had sex with her after other members of his family had gone to bed. The second incident, which led to her becoming pregnant, took place in the back of the man's car in December 1991.

The girl was yesterday said to have had a natural miscarriage in March 1992, when she had gone to England for the termination. It was then discovered the child was already dead. The man's lawyers had earlier attempted to halt the case before the Irish High and Supreme Courts arguing that enormous level of publicity had prejudiced his chances of a fair trial.

Before sentencing, the man had told the judge he was 'terribly sorry' for what he had done. But Judge Gerard Buchanan said the man had 'violated the trust' put in him by the girl's parents.