The Supreme Court has reduced the prison term imposed on a man convicted four years ago of several indecent assaults committed in the summer of 1978.
The man, who is now aged in his 60s, groomed and sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy who visited alone more than 40 years ago.
Four years ago, the trial judge gave consecutive sentences of 21 months for each of five counts of indecent assault, totalling eight years and nine months. The final 21 months was suspended, while an appeal court extended the suspended portion of the sentence to cover 33 months.
The Supreme Court in December found the Court of Appeal erred in principle in the sentencing appeal because it did not explain or rationalise the overall sentence, including the suspended part.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court imposed a sentence of five years and three months, with the final six months suspended.
Giving the sentencing ruling on behalf of the five-judge court, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said each count on the indictment receives a 21-month sentence. However, the terms for the first two counts will run concurrently, as will the terms for the third and fourth counts, but these will run consecutively to the first two counts. The fifth count, she said, also receives a 21-month term, to run consecutively with the other terms.
The man, a divorced father of one, has no other convictions.
Ms Justice Dunne said the judges took account of a further victim impact statement, submissions from parties and all of the materials that were put before the original sentencing court.
She said the offending took the form of “grooming” and increased in severity over a six-week period in 1978 until the victim was forced to perform oral sex on the man, who was then aged in his early 20s.
The trial judge and Court of Appeal treated the charges as of equal status, she said, adding that the Supreme Court had regard to the overall pattern of offending over a relatively short period of time which culminated in very serious offending.
In her December judgment on behalf of the court, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley said the lower courts fell into error in failing to consider the totality of sentences imposed on the man.
The overall sentence, including the suspended element, must reflect the sentencing court’s overall assessment of the gravity of the case and the circumstances of the accused, she said.
The court also included Mr Justice Peter Charleton, Ms Justice Marie Baker and Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe.