FOUR brothers who pleaded guilty to sexually and indecently assaulting their younger sister walked free from Kilkenny Circuit Court on Thursday after they each received five year suspended prison sentences.
The Nolan brothers - Sean (52), Thomas (51), Pat (49) and Denis (47) – spent last Wednesday night in custody at Cloverhill prison as Judge Alice Doyle considered an appropriate sentence overnight.
The court heard evidence of how the four sexually assaulted their younger sister Teresa O’Neill during ‘doctors and nurses’ games at their family home in Maddoxtown, County Kilkenny on dates between January 1977 and March 1982.
It was also revealed that Teresa and her brother Thomas were sexually assaulted at the home – described as a ‘house of horrors’ - of their now deceased grand-uncle.
Inflicted terror on sister
Judge Doyle noted that the men were disgusted with themselves for the terror they inflicted on their sister. “The fact they feel so badly is punishment in itself and they’ll be placed on the sex offenders register.”
She suspended the prison terms on condition they keep the peace, liaise with the Probation & Welfare Service and attend counselling for five years.
Judge Doyle remarked, “Thirty years on from these offences, these men have wives and partners and children of their own. These are the innocent victims of this crime and sentencing the accused would represent huge hardship as it seems the men are disciplined now and anxious this type of thing won’t happen in their own homes.”
Judge Doyle said the hurt to the victim was ‘huge and insurmountable’. She came from a home where violence and terror was seen as the norm. She was exposed to huge harm and suffered outrageous damage.
Admitted guilt straight away
Detective Garda Bridget Goode said Teresa O’Neill (43) made a complaint in 2010 that she had been repeatedly sexually abused and assaulted by her brothers. They told her to take her clothes off. They touched Teresa in the vagina, on occasion penetrating. They touched her chest area and while doing so they masturbated and had Teresa masturbate back.
Det Goode said the four accused were arrested on August 5, 2010 and they made admissions of guilt straight away and were co-operative. “They all showed remorse and indicated their regret.”
John B Peart SC (for Sean Nolan) said when his client had been requested by his mother to make an apology to his sister, he did. He suggested the incidents started out as the siblings played doctors and nurses.
Mr Peart outlined that Sean married in April 1986, he previously worked as a caretaker at Kilkenny College and he now lived peacefully at Bennettsbridge where he likes to do Tidy Towns work. He is attending counselling and a psychiatry report reflected that he wasn’t a devious man, rather he was more naïve. “This started out innocuously and got completely out of hand. The outcome has been awful. A sentence hanging over him may have more of an effect than sending him to jail.”
Didn’t know anything about sex
Michael Delaney SC (for Pat Nolan) said his client was now married with two daughters, worked as a hospital porter, he was six years older than Teresa and was thirteen at the time the first offence was committed. He described how he saw his older brother Sean engage in an act of indecent assault and he followed on from what he observed.
Mr Delaney, reading from statements, said the accused told his sister he was ‘sorry for what happened’. She replied, “You ruined my whole life and destroyed my childhood.” He said, “We were young and didn’t know anything about sex.”
Upon hearing the allegations may be reported and investigated, he added, “Other people are involved now. We’ve young families but you do what you have to do.”
Mr Delaney said the father of all four accused was violent towards them and his wife. He said the complainant felt strongly that neither of her parents provided support, especially her father and that a grand uncle also interfered with her.
Married for sixteen years, Mr Nolan’s wife Linda said her daughters were aware of the case against their father and that their youngest girl wasn’t coping well.
Mr Delaney argued that in view of the considerable lapse in time since the offences occurred the imposition of a jail term would be more severe now than if the accused was convicted 20 or 25 years ago.
Aidan Doyle SC (representing Thomas Nolan) said Thomas, a labourer who is now married with two children, would leave home when arguments got bad and he would go away and seek refuge at a grand uncle’s house. “Far from that being refuge, it was a place of horror.”
He said Mrs O’Neill was very disappointed with the level of sympathy and compassion received from her parents and when she met Thomas, in the presence of their mother, he admitted, “It did happen and I can’t take it back.”
‘We ruined her life’
Thomas also made admissions immediately. “She was probably afraid. We ruined her life. We weren’t a normal family. It might be a bit late to say sorry now and I hope she can get on with her life. I’m definitely sorry for what I’ve done.”
Mr Doyle said a Probation Report showed there was a low-risk of his client re-offending and he said the offences occurred in a rural, remote part of Kilkenny where there was a complete lack of sex education and Thomas Nolan’s introduction to sexuality was at the house of his grand uncle. “Thomas and tragically the complainant took refuge there and what happened both of them was considerably worse than what they were fleeing from.”
Mr Doyle said Thomas had been attending counselling and he acknowledged to his sister and mother in 2006 his genuine sorrow and remorse.
Kevin Byrne (representing Denis Nolan) said Denis, who was accompanied in court by his partner, was married previously, has two children and was the youngest of the four brothers. He was twelve at the time the offences began and five years older than Teresa. He was the first of the accused to plead guilty and saved the state the need for a lengthy trial.
In his statement Denis said, “I’m gutted. It shouldn’t have happened. I’ve been thinking about it all the time. I’m disgusted with myself and I feel guilty about it.”
Mr Byrne added, “Denis has asked me to apologise unreservedly to his sister in open court.” And Mr Nolan repeated those sentiments when he entered the witness box him-self. “I’m deeply sorry.”
Mr Byrne said his client had a hard upbringing and that he calls to see his elderly mother on a weekly basis. There was a low-risk of him re-offending and he asked Judge Doyle to be as lenient as possible.