Castlebar Courthouse. Photo: Alison Laredo

Erris man gets three years for child molestation

A 76-year-old man who sexually molested seven girls aged between 7 and 12 over a seven-year period was sentenced to a total of three years in prison at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court today.

Patrick Reilly, Shanaghy, Belmullet, was described by one of his victims in victim impact statements read to the court as 'an evil monster who destroyed my childhood'.

Judge Sean Ó Donnabhain lifted reporting restrictions to allow for the publication in the media of the name of the accused.

However, he barred publication of the victims’ names or any details of the court case which might lead to the identification of any of the victims.

Last month Reilly pleaded guilty to 20 counts of sexually molesting his victims by touching their private parts beneath their clothes on dates between 1997 and 2004.

He was described in court today as a fisherman/handyman who is married with 10 children.

Counsel for the accused said he had been a respected member of the community but had suffered a dramatic fall from grace because of what happened.

Detective Garda John Lavery agreed with counsel that the case had caused tensions within the community and there had been incidents of attacks and damage to property.

However, the witness added, these incidents had now abated.

In brief victim impact statements read to the court, one of the victims - who are all now adults - said she still lives in fear because of what happened.

Of the accused, she wrote: “He took away my innocence and kept me living in fear while he lived a normal life.”

Judge Ó Donnabhain said 19 of the cases involved gross fondling or rubbing of the vaginal area while one involved vaginal penetration.

The judge added that aggravating factors in the case were the nature of the abuse, the number of victims and the length of time the abuse went on.

On each of the 19 charges he imposed a three-year sentence. On a 20th count – involving vaginal penetration - he imposed a four-year sentence, with the final year suspended.

All of the sentences will run concurrently. This means the accused will serve a total of three years in prison.