Ireland's eyebrow raising reputation for light sentencing for alleged rapists was bolstered again this week when a former Galway hotel owner was given a six year sentence for the rape of an employee following a staff party.
According to the Irish Times Brian Shaughnessy, 47, raped a young woman in the presidential suite of the Loughrea Hotel and Spa after asking her earlier in the night if he could confide in her and buying her drinks.
Shaughnessy, who was the owner of the hotel at the time, has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape on July 26 2010, but he was convicted by a jury following a trial in March of this year.
Justice Garrett Sheehan suspended the final year of Shaughnessy's six-year sentence on condition that he be of good behavior and keep the peace for a period of one year post-release.
The judge noted that Shaughnessy had not accepted the jury’s verdict of guilty, and said he would suspend one further year of the six-year sentence on the condition that he attend the 'Better Lives' rehabilitation program for sex offenders while he is in prison.
Justice Sheehan said he accepted the various character references that had been submitted on behalf of Shaughnessy, which indicated that his actions on the night in question had been out of character.
Justice Sheehan accepted that Shaughnessy had contributed to the development of his local community both through his involvement with the GAA and his hotel business, and that he was very much involved in the upbringing of his young family.
The judge also pointed out that the adverse publicity attaching to the case was 'punitive' for the defendant.
The young woman involved had earlier told the court of the effect of the rape on her life and family, saying, 'From the moment I left the room I was changed.'
She said she became hypervigilant afterwards and lost interest in her appearance and eating. She said she lashed out at the slightest thing and developed panic attacks.
She became afraid to fall asleep in case Shaughnessy was in her room. When she did fall asleep she said she suffered nightmares.
'You never took responsibility for what you did,' she told Shaughnessy.
She said he had taken her innocence, confidence and trust but she now had it back.
'I am handing back the guilt, blame and responsibility for my rape to its rightful owner. It is no longer mine to carry,' she said.
Defending attorney Martin Giblin handed in testimonials and a number of reports on his client’s behalf. He said local business and professional people in the area spoke highly of Shaughnessy.
He said Shaughnessy continues to assert his innocence. Justice Sheehan reportedly ordered that Shaughnessy be placed on the sex offenders’ register. The sentence was backdated to March 22 2013, when Shaughnessy went into custody.