By Seán McCárthaigh in The Irish Examiner
WOMEN’S rights groups predicts more married women will press charges against their spouses after a man was jailed yesterday for raping his wife.
A 46-year-old labourer from Sligo was jailed by the Central Criminal Court for six years for forcing his wife to have sex against her will in the family home on July 21, 1997.
The Rape Crisis Network Ireland said the sentence would send out a strong message to Irish society that rape within marriage will not be tolerated.
“It’s difficult to say how many women will come forward, but this case has demonstrated that women who have been raped by their husband have a right to report the crime,” said RCNI spokesperson, Ingrid Wallace.
“Anecdotally the incidence of marital rape is very common but many women find it hard, for a variety of reasons, to report someone who is the father of their children.”
It is the first successful prosecution for marital rape to come before the courts since the Criminal Law Rape (Amendment) Act 1990 removed an exemption that did not recognise rape within marriage as a crime.
Sentencing of the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been deferred following his conviction by a jury last July in order to allow time for preparation of a probation report and victim impact statement.
During the trial, garda witnesses gave evidence that the man had told investigating detectives: “I have no regrets about having sex with my wife against her will. The only regret I have is that gardaí know about it.”
Yesterday, Sligo Garda Sergeant Michael Prendergast said the accused also had two previous convictions for breaching a barring order for which he was given a six-month jail sentence.
Sentencing the man, Mr Justice Paul Carney said the court had to reject the accused’s “backwoodsman’s view” of his entitlements as a husband.
The judge said he could not offer the man any leniency as he had shown no remorse. He was “still in denial” and maintaining his innocence of the crime. Mr Justice Carney also described remarks by the man’s barrister that his client bore no ill will towards his wife as “patronising”.
“The position taken by the accused is not any more tolerated by the will of the Irish people,” said the judge. He also ordered the accused to be certified as a sexual offender under the Sexual Offenders Act 2001.
As the man did not appear to represent possess a danger to the general public, the judge said he would not impose any post-release supervision orders. However, he refused the man leave to appeal the sentence.
The man’s wife, a 36-year-old mother of five, who was accompanied to court by relatives, declined to comment after the hearing.
Welcoming the judgement, the RCNI said a recent report, Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland, had shown that almost one in four of all perpetrators of sexual violence against adult women were intimate partners or ex-partners. “Perhaps today’s sentence will go some way towards combating this devastating crime,” said Ms Wallace.