A 45-year-old Galway man has been sentenced to five years in prison with the final two years suspended for sexually assaulting his daughter’s best friend during a Hallowe’en sleep-over at his home.
Gerry Hopkins, 8 Pairc na gCaor, Moycullen, pleaded guilty when he first appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in October, 2016 to sexually assaulting the then 6-years-old victim on the night of October 27, 2015. The case was adjourned to May 2017 for the preparation of reports.
The girl’s father read his and his wife’s victim impact statement to the court last year in which he said Hopkins had shown their daughter no mercy during the 30-minute attack.
The little girl had been at a Hallowe’en party in Hopkins’ home and was allowed to sleep over with her best friend as both sets of parents had been good friends prior to the incident.
The girls were asleep in bed that night when Hopkins got into the bed beside them, leaned over his own daughter and subjected the victim to a prolonged sexual assault.
The little girl woke and then pretended to be asleep while Hopkins sexually assaulted her.
“She cried out in pain when he began to hurt her. He waited for her to stop crying before continuing to again assault her forcefully. The assault lasted 30 minutes,” Garda Paul Duffy told the court last year. He described Hopkins as “a bit of a loner who had no friends”.
The child told her mother about the assault when she was getting her ready for bed the following night.
Hopkins initially denied assaulting the child during two Garda interviews. He said his memory was vague due to his intoxication on the night but he finally admitted he could see no reason why the child would make up the allegation.
The child’s father became upset when he recalled how his daughter had to suffer the added trauma of being stripped naked and examined and questioned by strangers after the complaint was made.
“He reached over his own sleeping daughter to sexually assault our child. He showed her no sympathy or mercy and when she stopped crying he abused her again,” the tearful father said.
The man said his daughter could not sleep alone anymore and she whimpers in her sleep and pushes him away when he tries to comfort her.
He said Hopkins stole his daughter’s ability to trust adults and her innocence and trust in the world had gone. She had told her parents to tell Hopkins that he had hurt her a lot and scared her.
In contrast, Hopkins’ partner told the court last year he was an “extremely kind, warm and loving person” and a good father.
The court heard Hopkins had to move out of the family home following the complaint while the child protection agency, Tusla, carried out a risk assessment of his own children’s safety. It found his children were not at risk of abuse and he was allowed to return home.
Placing Hopkins on the Sex Offender’s Register, Judge Rory McCabe indicated a five-year sentence with two suspended was the appropriate sanction.
However, noting that a risk assessment of Hopkins by the probation service was incomplete, he deferred sentence for one year – to last week’s court – on condition Hopkins attend all probation service appointments in the interim and comply with all of its directions.
Prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke, told the sentence hearing last week that the girl’s parents wanted Hopkins named in the media.
John Kiely SC, defending, said Hopkins was no longer drinking and had abided by all of the bail conditions. He was also attending a Safer Lives sex offenders programme in Dublin once a week.
Judge McCabe said a custodial sentence was unavoidable given the “gross betrayal of trust and breach of friendship” by the accused.
Imposing the five-year sentence on Hopkins, the judge said the gravity of the offence required a punitive element and that rehabilitation thus far would be reflected in the suspension of the final two years of that sentence.
The final two years were suspended on condition Hopkins not reoffend and come under the supervision of the probation service for 18 months post release from prison. He is to complete the Safer Lives programme and comply with all directions of the probation service.