February 25, 2009 – Wednesday
NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF COURT CASE
Category: News and Politics
Following is copy of Meath Chronicle coverage of my niece Louise’s court case taken by the State on her behalf against her abuser….
Child sexual abuse though a difficult and often taboo subject is a very serious one and statistics indicate a minimum of one in four people particularly women will experience sexual abuse in their lifetime. Children are especially vulnerable, and the second article paints an accurate and all-too-common picture of the impact this has on the life and psyche of the victims.
Article One covering court case in November 2008:
JURY CLEARS MAN (55) OF INDECENT ASSAULT
A 55 year old man was cleared by a Trim Circuit Court jury last week of 10 counts of indecent and sexual assault on his niece at the family home almost 18 years ago.
Jurors took over 2 hours to find Paul Hopkins, with an address at Kilmoon, Tara, not guilty on 6 charges of indecent assault, and 4 of sexual assault, on Louise Kizzie Prince on dates between 1st September 1990 and 3rd May 1991 at Crossdrum, Oldcastle.
The defendant had pleaded not guilty to all 10 counts. The victim waived her right to anonymity at the close of the case.
Mr Jonathan Kilfeather, for the D.P.P., told the jury of 7 men and 5 women that the defendent had pleaded guilty to 3 related charges dating from 1st September 1990 to 3rd May 1991 in the house involved, the coalshed and hayshed nearby. The court had dealt with these 3 charges. (Sentencing on these 3 charges is covered in the second article. And who honestly believes that an abuser would ONLY molest a child 3 random times over an 8 month period? The victim said the abuse was almost daily, but proof had to be beyond a reasonable doubt and a skilful and conscience free defence barrister used his ‘talent’ to create reasonable doubt and manipulate any legal technicalities at his disposal…ANGIE)
Mr. Roddy O’Hanlon, defending barrister, said the case was a retrial of that heard last February, when there had been an objection to the framing of the indictment to what he described as ‘sample charges’ in the 10 now facing the jury.
Louise Kizzie Prince told the court she lived in London and was aged 12 when in 1990 she moved to the West African country of Cameroon with her mother, step-father and brother, and attended school there. Her parents decided to send her to attend school in Oldcastle where she would live with her grandparents.
She had lived in Ireland before, but moved to Crossdrum in August 1990 and attended St. Oliver Post Primary school in Oldcastle. Witness had lived with her Aunt Sharon and her husband Paul Hopkins while attending national school in Oldcastle, but when Sharon went back to England Paul stayed in Oldcastle.
Witness recalled the first incident occurring when she had finished her dinner, after coming home from school in September 1990. The defendant started “messing around” as they were playing a game running around the house and hiding. She hid in the downstairs bedroom where he found her and started tickling her and she felt his hand touching her inappropriately. Further incidents occurred up to her 14th birthday – “it was continuous, almost on a daily basis”, she said. He would touch her breasts and private parts, she added.(One charge of attempted rape was dealt with and sentenced on, although it was framed simply as ‘sexual assault’. Another charge of digital rape was thrown out on a technicality because Louise could not pinpoint the exact date. Angie)
On witness’s 14th birthday her mother arrived on a surprise visit to Crossdrum, having recovered from cerebral malaria. Hopkins had told witness the hayshed incident had been wrong, and she should never allow anyone to do that to her. The family that day was trying to bring back horses which escaped from a field. She saw just Hopkins in the field and he told her he would bring her home. In the car, he started touching her inappropriately.
A number of legal challenges were made by Mr. O’Hanlon in the absence of the jury, centring on the absence of specific details in any of the 10 charges to which his client had pleaded not guilty.
Mr. Kilfeather responded that these points had been ruled on by the trial judge at the earlier hearing.
Judge Michael O’Shea said the charges would go to the jury.
Ms. Prince said she had been brought to a counsellor by her mother twice, possibly more. Her mother also got advice from the Womens’ Refuge in Navan and went to Hopkins’ priest in Virginia with him – Hopkins was to attend the counsellor too.
Kathryn Power told the court she was the victim’s mother and the decision to send Louise to Oldcastle was made because they were 500 miles from an English-speaking school. Witness was pregnant when she contracted cerebral malaria in September 1990 and lost her baby before returning to England in October and taking 4 months to recover. Two days before her 14th birthday her daughter made an allegation against Paul Hopkins (this is a reporting error…it was AFTER her 14th birthday after the car incident that Louise disclosed to her mother…ANGIE)
Witness left Hopkins a note to meet her in the house, where she told him of the allegations. He responded straight away “Yes, everything she said is true, I don’t know why I did it, I’m really sorry” she said. The family then talked about what to do, as Hopkins admission had “thrown us all”.
It was decided that given the effect of gossip on her daughter attending a small local school to consult a priest in Virginia to ensure Hopkins’ family knew about it. Witness went with her mother and Hopkins to meet the priest, while witness contacted the Navan Womens’ Refuge who referred her to a counsellor.
Witness brought Louise to her two or three times, and Hopkins also visited the counsellor. Witness told Mr. O’Hanlon she went to see the priest to ensure Hopkins’ family knew about his confession (of assault). The accused had admitted it to the 3 of them in Virginai. Garda Fiona Devanney told the court she was based in Kells on 9th September 2006 when she arranged to meet Paul Hopkins. She arrested him and brought him for interview with Garda Hugh Brady in Kells Garda Station. Hopkins said in a statement he was living at Crossdrum in 1990 where he kept cattle and dogs.
The first incident occurred when Louise was playing with a neighbour’s boy in the house, messing around. Hopkins admitted catching her by the breast and he later thought “she seemed to enjoy it” (sick bastard…Angie) In the coalshed he put his hands up her clothes and on her private parts. In the hayshed he might have asked her to put her hand on his penis and “she didn’t seem scared” (S.B., Angie). He knew what he was doing was wrong and had become aroused on all 3 occasions (S.B. Angie)
He said he remembered no incident on her 14th birthday or in the car. (I have an issue here…on several accusations Hopkins responded that he didn’t recall or remember such an such…I thought the law says that if accusor makes an allegation and defendant cannot recall veracity the presumption falls on the side of the accusor’s version? Why didn’t Louise’s barrister recognise or pursue this? Angie) He never asked her to take off her trousers and pants nor had he done so. He said he had asked her not to tell anyone as he knew it was wrong at the time, and had said that to her. He had known Louise since she was looked after by him and his wife when she was 6. They had a close relationship but “nothing sexual”.
Sharon Power, the defendant’s ex wife, said she was living in England in 1990. She had been separated from the defendant and had custody of their daughter, but the defendant was still seeing her. (Shame on my sister Sharon for testifying on behalf of a despicable man she divorced or had her marriage annulled to…for ignoring her own daughter’s signs of distress and cries for help etc and still insisting her relationship with her Dad was great…for lying on the stand when asked to verify that she had been greatly distressed when Hopkins secretly met her daughter unsupervised many times in breach of access agreement. Sharon had apparently consulted solicitors at this time to stop this unauthorised access and was advised that in the absence of a prosecution, and given the time-lapse nothing could be done…ANGIE)
She said she returned to Ireland after the incidents happened. She was concerned for her daughter’s safety and spoke to Louise, her own mother and father, and the counsellor.
She told the jury she decided to be cautious but didn’t think the risk was impossibly bad (??? A.) so they continued to see each other and father and daughter now have a good relationship.
Father Tom McKiernan said he was curate in Virginia in 1990 (if my memory serves me correctly one of his recent predecessors had been simply transferred away to a different parish after several accusations in the community of children claiming abuse by the priest when they were serving as altar boys…a whole other scandal…ANGIE) when he met with Paul Hopkins with Ms. Power and 2 other members of the family.
He said Paul Hopkins was challenged on certain matters that had taken place and admitted he had done something wrong (again, Louise’s barrister could have pressed for specifics here…ANGIE). Witness said he had been very impressed at how strong Louise’s family were and their measured response to this whole thing. (Naive praise..their main priority was to avoid the gardai or papers getting involved and to bury this as swiftly as possible, evidenced by their disgraceful support of the paedophile throughout the case, and their expulsion of the victim from the family when she did eventually contact the authorities…ANGIE)
He said the defendant had agreed to go to counselling and Louise was also receiving counselling. (It was totally inappropriate for a counsellor to see both the paedophile and victim; she had given testimony at the first case in February and was then no longer working as a counsellor but working as a receptionist…she had just qualified from college when she saw Louise and Hopkins…she had no recall of meeting Louise or notes…she said she remembered Hopkins as being unusual in his remorse and willingness to take responsibility for his wrong-doing…she was only on the stand because Hopkins had driven to her home and asked her to testify on his behalf…ANGIE)
A transcript of evidence given in an earlier trial by a counsellor Sharon Malone, who has since died, was read to the jury (Ms. Malone apparently died of a heart attack days before being due to take the stand again if this is the case obviously it is regrettable..she was only in her early 40’s…however, Louise’s barrister should have read out the cross examination notes but left this to the prosecution. In the actual taking of the stand Ms. Malone had presented as a very weak and implausible witness….ANGIE) She said that she did not feel Paul Hopkins was a threat to his daughter and that he had appeared to accept his guilt.
PAUL HOPKINS APPARENT REMORSE, WHICH WAS USED AS A STRONG MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCE IN SEEKING A SUSPENDED SENTENCE IS LAUGHABLE IN LIGHT OF HIS ONLY ADMITTING ABOUT 5% OF WHAT HE ACTUALLY DID TO HIS NIECE…IN LIGHT OF HIM PUTTING HER THROUGH TWO UNNECESSARY AND TRAUMATIC COURT HEARINGS…IN LIGHT OF HIS SHAMELESS AND MANIPULATIVE SOLICITING OF SUPPORT FROM LOUISE’S FAMILY, DIVIDE AND CONQUER, WHEN HIS OWN ENTIRE FAMILY WASHED THEIR HANDS OF HIM AND THE CASE…..ANGIE.
Second article………MEATH CHRONICLE, 25.02.09
ABUSE VICTIM SPEAKS OUT FOLLOWING SENTENCE
A young woman who was abused by her aunt’s husband while she was living in Oldcastle in the early 1990’s spoke this week of how the abuse devastated her life.
She was speaking in the wake of her abuser’s conviction at Trim Circuit Court last Friday of 3 offences relating to the abuse. Paul Hopkins at an address in Kilmoon, Tara, admitted 1 count of sexual assault and 2 counts of indecent assault in the early 1990’s.
Judge Michael O’Shea imposed three 2-year suspended sentences. His victim, Louise Kizzie Prince, who waived her right to anonymity, said this week she was devastated at the sentences and felt the perpetrator had been allowed to abuse her and still go free.
“I feel very let down. I feel I’ve gone through the whole process of reporting the abuse just to have him told to behave himself” she said.
Louise lived with her grandparents in Oldcastle when her mother fell ill in the early 1990’s and it was then that the offences occurred. She said that, prior to the abuse, she had been a happy child who enjoyed poetry and Irish dancing, for which she had won a number of medals.
However, she was vulnerable and worried about her mother and she believed Hopkins took full advantage of her vulnerability. “It makes me very sad and angry to this day because he was someone I fully trusted and loved from the age of about 6.
She said that after the abuse, she experienced confusion, shock and anxiety, “I felt sick to my stomach, I couldn’t concentrate at school” she added.
She recalled that when she was 15 she attempted and nearly succeeded in killing herself. “I felt absolute hopelessness and no point to life. I felt and feel that he has completely got away with what he has done to me and my family.”
She said she had an overwhelming sadness that devastated all parts of her life, including being a mother. “I have no doubt that this will have a ripple effect for generations to come.”
“My chronic depression has led to serious chaos in my life, sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, rage, and complete disconnection from everyday situations.
She said this had left her struggling to hold down a job or to have happy, healthy relationships, and added she had serious trust and intimacy difficulties, and very low confidence and self-esteem problems.
“I don’t feel that I am worth looking after. I’ve been on an off anti-depressants since my suicide attempt at 15, and I am still taking them today.” she said.
Coming back to Ireland to deal with the court case, she said, has been her biggest challenge to date. “I have been experiencing a lot of flashbacks, and the emotions attached to them.” she said.
Louise paid tribute to Deirdre Kenny of the ONE-IN-FOUR organisation who has been great support to her. “Without her support I couldn’t have gone ahead with any of it” she added.
Note….one of the saddest things is that Paul’s failure to admit FULL guilt of his actions has divided the Power family to the point that Louise has been more or less excommunicated along with any sympathetic family members. It was horrifying to see Louise’s grandparents in court for sentencing IN SUPPORT OF THE MAN WHO MOLESTED THEIR GRANDCHILD and to see Hopkins shake their hands and throw his arms round Dorothy’s neck in jubilation that he was not going to serve time in prison.
The way families deal or fail to deal with child sexual abuse IS AS TRAUMATIC IF NOT MORESO FOR THE VICTIM AS THE ORIGINAL ABUSE.
As a child one is nervous to come forward and tell the truth for fear of being disbelieved or blamed…sadly this fear is often well-founded. But the price of not coming forward and finding a voice is much higher, with addiction, relationship chaos and suicide very commonly taken as an escape from the unresolved pain and trauma.