A man described as pillar of his community has been sentenced to three years for a series of sex offences against three sisters that started when they were 12 years old.
Frank McHugh, 66, of Narin, Portnoo, Co. Donegal, was sentenced to three years with 11 months suspended when he admitted 17 sexual assaults on the sisters between October 1977 and February 1985. He was placed on the sex offenders register.
Donegal Circuit Court was told the father of three was a retired Bord na Mona employee, a peace commissioner, a co-founder of a community centre of which he was a former chairperson, a regular church-goer and a non-drinker and non-smoker.
McHugh’s wife and three children were in court to hear Judge John O’Hagan refer to him as a “pillar of their lives” who had committed an appalling series of sex offences.
Two of his three victims were also in court with their husbands.
The judge told McHugh that he hadleft a terrible trail of devastation behind him
The court heard the offences started shortly after the sisters moved with their family to Ireland from the UK.
One said in her victim impact report read by the prosecution in court that the first offence against her started six weeks after they moved to Ireland,
Another sister said in her impact report that she suffered in silence for 28 years.
The third sister said her innocence was taken away in childhood,
In 2011, when each sister became aware for the first time of the abuses committed against them, they told their heart-broken 73-year-old father. One of them also sat at the side of her mother’s grave to tell her about what happened.
Earlier the court was told by investigating officer, Det.Garda David Moore, that two of the girls were aged 12 when they were abused. McHugh had pleaded guilty to one sample charge against each of them.
Det Gda Moore said several offences were committed against the older sister between the ages of 12 and 18.
Defence counsel Cormac O’ Dulachain told the court that McHugh was involved in every community initiative in his area. He apologised to his victims and to his own family and acknowledged that he had destroyed many people’s lives and relationships.
Judge O’Hagan described the case as “appalling and “horrific”. He noted the defendant could be identified but there must be no publication of his victims’ names.