‘Stuff from nightmares’ – The Tullamore rape trial shows that change is happening ‘far too slowly’ for victims, says Dublin Rape Crisis Center CEO


The horrific trial of the four men found guilty of brutally sexually assaulting a woman in Tullamore is “the stuff of nightmares,” said Noeline Blackwell, CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre.

The jury yesterday convicted four men of multiple sexual assaults committed more than five years ago during what the court described as a “gang rape” of a girl in a car.

In the early hours of December 27, 2016, the then 17-year-old girl got into a car with five men after being separated from her friends at the end of a night out in Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

She asked for a ride to a location in the county but instead the car headed down back roads towards nearby Kilbeggan, Co Westmeath. During this trip, the girl was repeatedly sexually assaulted by several men who fondled and molested her.

The woman was crying and asked to get out of the car, but two of the men prevented her from getting out of the car. One of these men raped her a second time and another raped her orally.

After nearly nine hours of deliberation, the jury found the four defendants guilty of multiple counts.

Ms Blackwell said lengthy traumatic processes for victims in “horrific cases” like this were “all too common”.

“This is a horrific case, there was a long lag between when the crimes were committed and when the court dates. Four people pleaded not guilty, leading to a four-week trial.

“It’s the stuff of nightmares, the stuff of our worst fears. This young woman has had to remember and remember every single piece of evidence since she was in her mid-teens so that five years later she could come to court talking about things she just wants to forget and put behind her in order to to move on with the rest of her life.

“It’s a horrible experience. I think we have to recognize that when the judge said the jury heard so much harrowing evidence that she would absolve them of further duty…the harrowing nature of the evidence rests with this young woman since the horrific events happened, Ms Blackwell told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

The defendants, who were between 17 and 19 at the time, had denied all allegations. Her attorneys had told the jury that they believed some of the alleged sexual acts never happened and that any that did occur were believed by their clients to be consensual.

A fifth man, Conor Byrne, 24, of Ballybeg, Moate, Co Westmeath, was due to stand trial with the other men but pleaded guilty at the last minute to raping the girl that night.

In his March 2018 Garda interviews, Gabriel Gomes Da Rocha accepted that he and the others had taken advantage of the girl and that it wasn’t right.

He agreed with an objection that the men were getting horny and everyone was going “too far”. He said he would like to tell her, “Excuse me, please forgive us.”

The woman testified that she was upset when the sexual assaults began in the back of the moving car and tried to push the men’s hands away from her. She said after the first rape in the parked car, she froze and felt lifeless.

Ms Blackwell said things are beginning to change in terms of the support victims of sexual assault receive, but “much too slowly”.

“We must be thankful that we have a justice system that recognizes and prosecutes rape and non-consensual sex. We must be grateful that the justice system recognizes non-consensual sex and that you are not expected to yell and it is not just physical violence if you resist.

“There is a reality in sex crimes trials that during the trial, victims cannot go on with their lives as if their car was stolen. There is a particular difficulty in sex crimes court cases.

“Steps are afoot and the justice system is beginning to recognize the horrific nature of sex crimes for victims and the Attorney General is determined to change things, but it’s all happening very slowly because you’re turning a big ship and this system is still nowhere near fit for purpose,” Ms Blackwell said. ‘Stuff from nightmares’ – The Tullamore rape trial shows that change is happening ‘far too slowly’ for victims, says Dublin Rape Crisis Center CEO

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