A 19-year old Donegal man who orally raped a young woman acting as a “good Samaritan” has been given a five year sentence with the final three years suspended.
Bailey Laughlin, of Ballylin, Ramelton, Co Donegal pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to oral rape of the then 16 year old woman at Fanad, Co Donegal on May 1, 2016. The young woman has waived her right to anonymity so that Laughlin can be identified.
The court heard the young woman had followed Laughlin, who was drinking heavily and upset, outside during a party to check on him. Laughlin was aged 17 years old at the time and has no previous convictions.
Mr Justice Michael White noted during his sentencing remarks that there were wider societal concerns in relation to young people involved in the case including binge drinking and young men learning about sex through violent pornography.
He said the young woman had been acting as “good Samaritan” at the time of the offence, having gone to assist Laughlin when she saw him leaving the party they were attending in a drunken state.
The court heard the woman had “practically nothing” to drink during the night. She had previously received Snapchat messages of an unwanted nature from Laughlin which she had not responded to.
Mr Justice White paid tribute to the young woman, noting it was clear the offence had caused her great fear and terror. He said she was a very impressive young lady and he was sure over the long term that she could recover from this ordeal. He said that young people were particularly vulnerable in regard to breeches of personal autonomy and any personal contact has to be with the clear consent of the person involved.
He said this was not a straightforward sentencing in that there were substantial aggravating factors but also substantial mitigating factors. He said the court had particular responsibilities to take into account when sentencing someone who was under 18 years old at the time of the offence.
The judge said the court had a duty in this particular case to deal with the principle of deterrence but also to have regard to the rehabilitation and youth of Laughlin at the time of the offence.
The judge said Laughlin had a difficult upbringing, noting this was starkly illustrated in a letter from an uncle, who, together with Laughlin's grandparents, had done their best to provide a loving environment. He said it was clear Laughlin was a very immature young man with a lack of parental direction.
He noted the probation reports concern that Laughlin had received his sexual experience through pornography and effectively formed quite immature sexual attitudes.
Mr Justice White also noted the practice of young men to binge drink and make life changing decisions. He said Laughlin's use of alcohol was not a mitigating factor.
He said there had to be a custodial element to Laughlin's sentence, due to the seriousness of the offence and the effect on the victim, but that there was a substantial suspended period during which he would be supervised. Mr Justice White imposed a five year sentence with the final three years suspended on strict conditions.
The conditions include probation supervision, addressing the factors contributing to his risk of re-offending, refraining from abusing alcohol and engaging with the sex offenders risk assessment and management team.
Defence counsel, Orla Crowe SC, said Laughlin was “deeply remorseful, deeply ashamed and deeply sorry” for an offence on a girl who was only helping him on the night in question.
Ms Crowe asked the court to take into account his age and told the court he had undergone counselling for alcohol binge use.