The Criminal Courts of Justice
A West Wicklow foster father who raped his foster daughter over 1,000 times has been sentenced to 11 years in prison.
24-year-old Kelly Kemmy, who has decided to waive her anonymity to name Stephen Murray (56), her foster father and abuser, said she was raped a thousand times from the age of 11 until she was 18.
She told the Central Criminal Court she stands before Stephen Murray now a survivor and is determined not to let the abuse define her.
Stephen Murray (56) of, Humphreystown, Valleymount, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty to 14 charges of rape, two charges of oral rape and one charge of sexual assault on dates between February 2009 and December 2015. He has no previous convictions.
Kelly Kemmy's victim impact statement was read into the record at the initial sentencing hearing of her 56-year-old foster father.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott told the court that Murray and his wife had been trusted with the care of this girl and her two siblings. The judge said that throughout this period of abuse, Murray was devious in keeping this a secret from his wife.
Judge McDermott said Murray's actions resulted in gross sexual abuse and that it was evident from her victim impact statement that this had psychological effects on the victim and caused her physical and emotional pain.
The judge said the aggravating factors were that the offences were carried out against a vulnerable young child in her own bedroom.
He said that Murray had inflicted terror, fear and isolation on the child, and that his empathy for the girl had only emerged recently. Judge McDermott said Murray persisted with the abuse because he could and wanted to, even when asked not to by his foster daughter.
The judge said the offences were of the most serious level. On the count of sexual assault, he sentenced Murray to seven years in prison. On the counts of rape, he sentenced Murray to 12 years in prison.
Judge McDermott said that he must consider mitigation when sentencing, noting the early guilty plea entered by Murray and his expression of shame and remorse, together with his good work history and positive engagement with the probation services.
For this reason, the judge suspended the final 12 months of the sentence under the condition that Murray keep the peace and be of good behaviour and keep all appointments as directed by the probation services.
Both sentences will run concurrently.
Anne Rowland SC, prosecuting said the pleas were acceptable to the State on the basis that they were sample charges. She said the woman told gardaí that from the age of 11 to 18 years old, she was raped between four and five times per week by the man.
Ms Rowland said even if the man had raped the girl once a week that would equate to 300 incidences, and if it were the case that he raped her as often as five times a week that would be equal to over a thousand incidences of rape.
Counsel said the Director of Public Prosecution has directed that the case falls into the 'exceptional category' for such offending, given the extreme vulnerability of the victim, the abuse of trust involved, the frequency of offending and the severe and long-lasting impact the rape had on the woman.
She said on that basis, the DPP suggests the case merited a headline sentence of between 15 years and life imprisonment.
The court heard that following an initial abuse of the girl while in the sitting room of the family home, Murray would regularly come into her bedroom at night and rape her.
The other members of the family, including his wife, were often in the house sleeping at the time.
On one occasion when there was a party in the house to mark her younger sister’s communion, the victim went to bed with a headache but her foster father followed her into her room. He tried to touch her telling her it would make her feel better. She pushed him away and he left.
Ms Kemmy reported the abuse to gardaí in 2019 following a text conversation with Murray, when he asked her if they 'could go again?' She took this to mean that he was asking to have sex with her again.
At that point he had not raped her for a number of years but she was in the house and he had been drinking so she was worried he would come into her room.
It was at that point that she decided that she had to disclose the abuse. She told her younger siblings, her boyfriend at the time and then later the gardaí.
The man was arrested in December 2019. He made no comment during interview. His wife later made a statement to gardaí in which she said he admitted to her that he had raped their foster daughter.
The victim impact statement said Ms Kemmy was still uncovering the ways the abuse has affected her life and said she had been hurt 'in a way that no human should'. “The abuse feels like a life sentence,” she said.
She said she came to the man’s home 'craving love and acceptance'. She described how the abuse began with the man asking her to lie on him and act as 'his blanket' and how he made this behaviour out to be 'a normal thing'.
She addressed Murray directly and said he used 'my small body for your sexual gratification' and she found it difficult to put into words the 'excruciating pain' she experienced.
Ms Kemmy said she had 'feelings of confusion and shame' as she tried, a as young child, to comprehend what was happening.
“I was the child and you were the adult telling me it was a secret,” she continued before she added that she felt completely alone and there was 'no safe place'.
She described feeling 'trapped, helpless and frightened' and said she was too scared to report the abuse because of what may happen her younger brother and sister, who were also living in the foster home.
Ms Kemmy said she 'cried myself to sleep' and said Murray would punish her with silence if she refused to allow him to rape her, causing her siblings to wonder what had happened.
She knew speaking up would ruin her siblings’ lives, so she didn’t disclose the abuse until she was 21 years old.
She said the impact on her from the abuse was 'more than I ever imagined'.
“It has torn me to pieces. My teenage years were dark.” She described feeling numb and said she didn’t want to exist, she was 'ashamed and embarrassed'.
The victim said her foster father 'stole her identity' and she 'felt alienated'. She found studying 'immensely difficult' because of the “constant flashbacks”.
“I stand in front of you as a survivor,” Ms Kemmy said before she added that she missed out on a childhood and her life 'turned into a living nightmare'.
“The abuse brought me nothing but shame,” she said before she added that she has complete lack of self-worth and suffers from depression.
She said she has been surviving life for 15 years, “sometimes only existing”.
“Today is when I start to live. I am determined that I will not let this define me,” Ms Kemmy concluded her victim impact statement.
Ronan Munro SC, defending said his client is 'appropriately ashamed' of what he has done. He has started attended counselling and “demonstrates that he is willing to engage to discuss these matters”.
Counsel said his client’s working life and marriage are over. He is living as a recluse as he is ashamed to be seen locally and is drinking about four pints a night to help him to go to sleep.
Mr Munro said there are concerns over his client’s mental health and asked the court to take into account that although he made no admissions to gardaí, he pleaded guilty and spared his foster daughter the ordeal of a trial.
Abuse began at age 11
The investigating garda told Ms Rowland that the victim first made a statement in July 2019 in which she said the abuse began when she was 11 years old and her foster father, who was lying on the couch in their sitting room, asked her to lie on top of him as 'a blanket'. Her younger siblings were also in the room at the time.
He then rubbed her waistline and under her top before he fondled her breasts and sexually assaulted her. She recalled it being spring time and said she had just made her confirmation.
She said not long afterwards her foster father came into her bedroom at night and raped her. Afterwards he got up, put on his clothes and left without saying anything to her. When she woke the next morning, she was extremely confused and he acted completely normal.
She said this happened again two or three days later and said after that, until she was 18 years old, there was 'never a week' when he didn’t come into her bedroom and rape her. It happened four or five times per week, she told gardaí.
She said on a few occasions she was forced to perform oral sex on him.
Ms Kemmy told gardaí that after she had sex education in school, she realised what had been happening was wrong and she feared what would happen to her and her siblings if the abuse came to light.
She told gardaí that she and her two siblings were 'spoilt rotten' and wanted for nothing. Her foster mother was not able to have children and they were loved by her.
She described how during her younger sister’s communion party at her home, she went to bed because she had a headache but her foster father followed her into her room and tried to touch her, telling her it would make her feel better. She pushed him away and he got up and left but didn’t speak to her for a few days.
On another occasion he came into her bedroom and locked the door behind him before he raped her. During the incident her younger brother tried to get into her room and called out for her. She told him to wait a minute, the man then got up and left.
She said Murray stopped raping her when she turned 18 years old. She had started a relationship at that time but on one occasion, when she was home, he sent her text message asking her 'could we ever again?' She took this to mean him asking if he could have sex with her again.
She replied 'no' and he replied 'no problem, sorry, had to know, just wishing'. He later messaged her “Do you hate me for asking?”
She didn’t reply but as he was in the house drinking that night, she was worried he would come into her bedroom. That was when she decided to disclose the abuse to her siblings and her boyfriend.
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