By Eamonn McFadden firstname.lastname@example.org @dgldemocrat
The bravery of two young sisters who had been subjected to ongoing and sustained physical abuse from their father who headbutted them, hit them with sticks and punched them, was praised at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court on Friday.
An investigating garda officer said the victims were “the bravest girls in Donegal” for highlighting the abuse and vowing to continue with their lives and education with their foster families.
Their father was given a three and half year jail term for the abuse to his daughters. The final 18 months of the sentence was suspended.
The victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, were in court when the sentence was handed down by Judge John O’Hagan who said they grew up in a home that “must have been like a prison”.
Their father, now in his late 40’s, was found guilty by a jury back in April of six counts of child cruelty when they heard evidence that he hit them with sticks, kicked and headbutted them as well as provided them with alcohol when they were as young as twelve.
The court heard that in 2008, the children, part of a family of six, had been taken into care and returned to home two months later.
Within weeks of them returning the abuse began once again and continued until one of the girls, then aged 14, told a teacher in April 2012.
Sergeant John Dorrian, who investigated the case, said the victims are “the bravest girls in Donegal” because of how they dealt with the matter.
They were just seven and nine years old when the abuse began.
In their victim impact statements both described the impact their father's cruelty has had on their lives but vowed to move on and better themselves in their loving foster home environments.
The older of the victims, who is now 18, said she constantly lived in fear growing up and her father made her childhood “hell”.
Her sister, now 15, said they did not get to list all the abuse visited on her and her siblings as they were too numerous to mention and they were “treated like dirt”.
The trial had heard that some of the older children would help run the household each morning as their father would often be passed out drunk and have to be put to bed.
The court heard the defendant had continued to deny the charges against him up until recently but on Friday he entered the witness box to apologise to the girls saying he now accepted the jury’s verdict and he was sorry, adding: “I could have been a better parent”.
The court also heard the family was now deeply fractured with little contact between the siblings.
A psychological report detailed that the father was of “limited cognitive ability”.
Judge O’Hagan highlighted that both girls, and a brother who made a complaint statement he later retracted, had all corroborated similar evidence of the situation in their home in regard to the violence, neglect and use of alcohol.