A judge has been heavily criticized after suggesting to a sex offender that there was nothing stopping him from “finding a wife or a partner”.
Domestic and sexual abuse charities and advocates spoke out after Cathal Patrick Feeney, 36, of Main Street, Beragh, was convicted at Dungannon Crown Court of sexually assaulting a woman he met through a dating website .
Feeney was “considered to be dangerous to women” at a bail hearing, police said, and the court heard he had “67 prior offences, some of which were domestic”.
Eight women, including his mother and grandmother, have also issued non-harassment orders against Feeney.
Judge Brian Sherrard KC described Feeney “as a bellicose, drunken thug, a bully and a nuisance.”
Feeney was sentenced to four and a half years in prison – the majority of which was served on remand – and received a seven-year sex offenses prevention order. Registration as a sex offender was ordered indefinitely.
The judge told him: “Your relationship with alcohol is extremely problematic. You find it difficult to see the significance of what happened and you run a high risk of recidivism.”
A parole officer said Feeney should be considered dangerous, but the judge felt the threshold had not been met and although his offense had escalated, it was the first sex offence.
He didn’t ban Feeney from contacting women over the internet because he “didn’t want to see him shut out of normal life.”
He said: “It was not the online contact that proved to be problematic, but the behavior afterwards.”
He added: “You’re still a young man. There is nothing stopping you from making your life more productive, finding work or finding a wife or partner, finding a family and a home.
“The imposed order is the lightest touch I can afford.”
Charities and lawyers across Northern Ireland yesterday criticized the comments.
Sarah Mason, CEO of the Women’s Aid Federation NI, described the comments as “terrible” and implied that the judge “did not understand the risk this man posed to women.”
“For the judge to minimize this very serious sexual assault case and put women and girls in NI at risk of potential harm from a known perpetrator – described by PSNI as ‘dangerous to women’ – shows a complete lack of empathy and understanding for the The extent and risk of violence against women and girls,” she said.
“This verdict does not fit the crime and will only deter women from seeking fair justice in court.
“It is evident that there is an urgent need for education and training on violence against women and girls throughout our justice system.”
During the trial, the judge said Feeney’s relationship with alcohol was “extremely problematic.”
Ms Mason said this continued reference to his relationship with alcohol “again minimizes and seeks to excuse his repeated acts of violence against women.”
Michelle Martin, manager at Assist NI, which supports victims of domestic and sexual abuse, said Feeney’s “the lightest touch he can afford” offers “little confidence and security for the thousands of women whose cases across Northern Ireland are because of.” of similar crimes await trial and ask themselves daily if it’s worth the wait”.
“I find the judge’s comments incomprehensible about handing down a sex offense prevention order with one hand and then encouraging the offender into a relationship, starting a family – imposing that risk on another woman, man and/or their potential children.” , is extremely irresponsible ,” she said.
“Perhaps counseling on transformative rehabilitation and education programs may be appropriate to address the offender’s behavior, violence, and criminal propensity.”
Sheila Simons, chair of the South Eastern Area Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Partnership, said: “Cases like this are numerous in Northern Ireland; We have some of the highest rates of femicide in all of Europe and we need to ensure that the language used in the courts, and particularly in cases like this, is used correctly and does not undermine this very long and complicated legal process that the victim has had to go through.
“We have a problem with people coming as is; 15 women have been murdered in Northern Ireland in lockdown and the PSNI recently revealed they are responding to a report of domestic violence every 16 minutes, it is shocking and we need more support for these victims.
“This is a societal problem and we need a societal response; Men must take responsibility for their violence and only then can proper support be provided.”
Niamh Quinn, founder of Advocacy VSV, which supports victims of sexual violence, said the danger in imposing these “lighter sentences” is that “they often do not act as a deterrent to further offending and make members of society more vulnerable to becoming victims.” “.
“I have no doubt that reading this finding regarding Mr. Feeney will discourage victims who may be at a stage where they are considering filing a complaint,” she said.
https://www.independent.ie/news/judge-who-suggested-sex-offender-find-a-wife-and-start-a-family-is-criticised-42060099.html The judge who suggested the sex offender “find a wife and start a family” has been criticized