Written on: 30. 8. 2011 in the category: news

Mccolgan Rape

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The child-rapist Joseph McColgan is probably the most evil man ever to appear before an Irish court. He was spotted mingling among youngsters at a car boot sale on Saturday in Plymouth. It passes all belief that this creature is now alive and well and living a free man in Devon, having been recently freed from a British prison after serving only half of a 30 month sentence imposed last year by Exeter Crown Court for child pornography offences. And this is just what happens when the institutions of state fail to discharge their bounden duty to protect the ordinary citizenry.

For sixteen years ago, McColgan was effectively sentenced to only 12 years in prison for engaging in the worst sexual abuse of children that any Irish court has ever heard. He began raping his daughter Sophia McColgan when she was seven. As she grew older, he used a cattle syringe to sluice her out with spermicide. He would take Communion, then leave Mass early, ushering his victim away for a frenzy of violation, secure from interruption because everyone was else back in the church. In all, Sophia was raped and violated for 17 years.

His first-born son, Gerard, suffered similarly. In addition to being raped, he was flogged and tortured; his knuckles smashed with a concrete block, his head smashed open with a hammer, and his leg crushed by a trailer. The second daughter, Michelle, endured much the same as Sophia. On one occasion, when his daughter had not performed satisfactorily, he ran her over with a motor-bike.

Yet despite this shocking evidence, the trial judge, Mr Justice Vivian Lavan, who died a couple of weeks ago, gave McColgan concurrent rather than consecutive sentences – in effect sentencing him to just 12 years in jail. With remission, this utterly wicked man served just nine years: eight years less than the regimen of rape and torture to which he had subjected his eldest daughter.

What sublime idiocy had taken over the judge’s mind in making the sentences concurrent? To be sure, the guilty plea, as we all know, confers some mitigation of sentence, but on this occasion, it seemed to be worth 216 out of the 228 years of jail sentences that McColgan had been given. In other words, his guilty plea effectively won him 95 per cent reduction on his sentence.


Throughout this entire affair, the state failed the McColgan family cruelly. The North Western Health were made aware of atrocious conduct in the household, but did little about it for years. The valiant efforts of one social worker, Valentine O’Kelly, to expose what was going on, came to nothing. Her reports quiver with rage at what she had found. In 1984, she wrote: “It is my opinion that I am dealing with a very pathological family. The degree of abuse, both physical and sexual, is at an extraordinary level.”

Quite so. And the 26 charges which McColgan finally faced eleven years later were mere samples of what could have been available to the court. Taken individually, McColgan would have got at least 12 years for any one of these deeds; but what effectively happened when the sentences were made concurrent was that the clock on the jurisprudential taxi was turned off after the first one. The other 25 offences clicked on without altering the final tariff. This was judicial fecklessness of high degree, and only a querulously self-protective legal culture which protects judges from strong criticism enabled Judge Lavan to escape without serious condemnation.

At the time McColgan was freed, I observed that those 26 charges covered only the three eldest children. There remained Keith, the youngest boy. Allegations that he was abused by his father had not figured in the trial. The sampling process, which stood as representative of McColgan’s abuse of Sophia, Michelle and Gerard, and which effectively closed the book on offences done to them, had for some reason excluded Keith. In other words, the issue of double-jeopardy, of being tried twice for the same offence, did not arise. It was technically possible to rearrest and charge McColgan for these offences, because they had never been the subject of a criminal proceedings.

“Here is a prosecution just waiting to happen,” I wrote seven years ago. But of course, that prosecution did not happen. After doing his time, and with remission, McColgan was released from Arbour Hill and allowed to go his own way. He went to England, and he was of course done on child–pornography charges in Devon. Incredibly, it seems that he had not even freed on licence: no lien had been placed on his liberty. Further offences did not activate further punishment . This entire affair constitutes a disgraceful failure by our courts, not merely in the inadequate punishment inflicted for crimes of an unspeakable depravity, but also for the utter disregard of the safety of any number of children once McColgan was free again. But why should such a failure ever surprise us? Name any government-accountable institution in Ireland which functions according to requirements. Go on. Please. Name it.

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