Northern Ireland

Eugene Gallagher avoids jail due to rape victim's 'compassion'

Newry Crown Court
Image caption Newry Crown Court was told the victim wanted to protect her rapist's family

A rapist has been given a suspended sentence after his victim told a court she did not want him jailed, as she did not want his family to "suffer".

Eugene Gallagher, of Ardfield Crescent, Warrenpoint, County Down, admitted charges of rape and indecent assault.

The offences were committed between October 1990 and March 1991, when Gallagher was 16 and his victim was 15.

The judge said the woman's "compassion" had "tipped the balance" in favour of a suspended rather than custodial term.

Call for 'mercy'

Gallagher, now 44, is a former chairman of St Peter's Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club in Warrrenpoint, but is no longer involved with the organisation.

Prior to sentencing at Newry Crown Court, a prosecution barrister told the judge that the complainant had "expressed a very strong view" that Gallagher not be sent to prison.

"The reason for that is not for anything connected to him, but that she doesn't want to see his family suffer.

"And that's the only reason. It's not through any compassion or feeling for him," said the lawyer.

A barrister acting for Gallagher, who is now a married man with young children, asked the judge to "temper justice with mercy".

Age factor

The judge told the defendant that, had he been sentencing an adult offender in these circumstances, a starting point for a custodial sentence would have been eight years.

However, due to mitigating factors including his age at the time, his guilty plea, and remorse shown, this could be reduced.

The judge conceded that it would be an "exceptional step" not to send a defendant such as Gallagher to prison, but said that what had "tipped the balance" in his favour was the "humanity and compassion" displayed by the victim.

Gallagher was sentenced to three years in prison for a single charge of rape; that was suspended for two years.

On four counts of indecent assault, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison, also suspended for two years.

His name will be placed on the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely.

Restorative justice

His victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she wanted her attacker held accountable, but not necessarily through the courts.

She urged the authorities to act on the recommendations of the recent review by Sir John Gillen into how sexual offences are dealt with in Northern Ireland.

"One of the key recommendations of the Gillen review refers to the concept of restorative practice, I feel that if this concept could be developed it would prove to be very positive," she said.

"There are many victims who may wish to see the accused held accountable but do not wish to enter the court process.

"For many people, like myself, there will be a desire for vindication rather than revenge, and it is important we explore ways to support this change in the system.

"I stopped feeling like a victim the day I had my first interview with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the support given by the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service has been immense," she said.

"I would urge other people carrying the same burden to consider reporting."

In a statement, a spokesperson for St Peter's GAA club said Gallagher no longer held any position or office in the club.

"At all times, the club and Eugene Gallagher followed best practice and the appropriate GAA procedures in relation to safeguarding young people involved in our club activities," it added.

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