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Friday 27 April 2018

'Dad betrayed me' - woman abused as a child 20 years ago

John Doherty will be sentenced today after sexually assaulting his stepdaughter when she was 12 and 13. Photo: Courtpix/Maxwells Dublin
John Doherty will be sentenced today after sexually assaulting his stepdaughter when she was 12 and 13. Photo: Courtpix/Maxwells Dublin

A woman who was sexually assaulted by her stepfather 20 years ago said her childhood was "very sick and wrong", a court has heard.

John Doherty (55), of Patrician Villas, Stillorgan, Dublin, is due to be sentenced today at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter between January 1996 and April 1998 at their home in Stillorgan, when she was a child.

Doherty had previously failed in his High Court bid to stay criminal proceedings through a judicial review, claiming "blameworthy delay" by gardai in prosecuting the case.

Abuse

The court heard that the garda who handled the original complaint in 1998 went on sick leave, retired and has since died, and that the case was not reassigned to another garda until recently.

Doherty's stepdaughter, now 34, waived her right to anonymity so that her abuser could be named, the court heard.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said the abuse she suffered at the hands of her stepfather had taken away her childhood, her family and her education.

"Memories of my childhood are ruined. I will always live with a sense of shame," she said.

"This will be the last time I address him as my dad; he no longer deserves that title," the statement read, pointing out that although Doherty was not her biological father, she had chosen him to be her dad from when she was three years old.

"I loved and trusted him unconditionally and he betrayed me," she said.

The court heard the woman's relationship with her mother and extended family fell apart when the abuse came out, and that arguments with her mother led to the victim being punched and kicked and thrown out of her house.

She left school in fifth year and said she was "so angry" that she lost out on her education through no fault of her own.

She said her own relationship with her children had been deeply affected and panicked that she would "mix appropriate and inappropriate" when telling her children about sex education.

Garda Jeanette Power told Lorcan Staines BL, prosecuting, that the girl started drinking beer and alcopops with her stepfather from around the age of 10, although he always told her not to tell her mother they were drinking. She would watch over-18s movies in bed with her father and have graphic conversations about sex scenes.

She told gardai that when she was about 12, Doherty got into bed beside her and said he just wanted cuddles, but that it felt "wrong".

Once when she was turning 13, Doherty gave her three or four bottles of Bacardi Breezer and she went to bed but complained shortly afterwards of feeling sick. Doherty told her to go back to bed and she slept, waking up to find his hand down her pants.

Rubbing

The girl said to her stepfather, "Did you just do what I think you did?" and he said he had been just rubbing her belly because she was sick.

A month later, Doherty told her she hadn't imagined it and he had put his hand on her genitals, but never to tell her mother as it would "break her heart".

Some years later, Doherty told his wife during an argument that he had "interfered" with his stepdaughter and was thrown out of the house for a period. He attended group therapy for a year, couple counselling and individual therapy for about six years.

A psychologist said Doherty had taken full responsibility and had a thorough understanding of the effects of his abuse, high levels of victim empathy and remorse, and posed a low risk of further offending.

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