Man jailed for a year for defilement of child when she was aged 15

February 1, 2023

A Co Donegal man has been jailed for the defilement of a teenage girl in 2011.

Ballintra man Richard Walsh was 18 when he assaulted the then 15-year-old girl.

His victim, Delaney Leech, yesterday waived her anonymity so that the now 29-year-old could be named.

Ms Leece says she has endured ‘a decade of suffering’ since the attack.

In her victim impact statement to the court Ms Leece said she wanted to die such was the pain she was suffering after the incident.

Walsh was given a 20-month prison sentence, the last eight months of which was suspended, when he appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court.

He pleaded guilty to one count of defilement of a child under 17 years of age, an offence contrary to section 3 (1) of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 2006.

The 29-year-old, of Lisminton, Ballintra, will serve 12 months behind bars and will be placed on the sex offender’s registers.

Ms Leece was present in court for the sentencing hearing, accompanied by family members.

Ms Leece was aged 15 years and four months at the time of the incident, on December 23, 2011, while Walsh had just turned 18, the court heard.

The incident occurred when Ms Leece was getting ready for a teenage disco .

In a lengthy victim impact statement, Ms Leece said the incident left her feeling ‘anxious, terrified and upset’.

“I feel like I was an object to him – something, instead of someone, that he could just use at his disposal,” Ms Leece said.

“I feel like he didn’t care about the consequences of his actions and how it would make me feel.

“It’s something that I’ll live with forever. I will never be the Delaney that I could’ve been. I will forever be this tainted, damaged version of myself.”

The incident had a profound effect on her emotionally, physically and mentally.

She said: “It affects my daily life – things that people just do are things I struggle with.

“Not only did I want to hide, I wanted to die. I’ve cut my body and still do. I don’t do any of this in an attempt to die and don’t want anyone to think that I do. I do all of it to regain control of my mind and body.”

Ms Leece got married last year but, while says she is now in a ‘better place’, she still goes through ‘more bad days than good’.

She said: “I still replay what happened that night in my head and I think about what would’ve happened if he didn’t defile me or if he’s at least listened to me when I said no and stop.”

Passing sentence, Judge Aylmer said there were aggravating features in the case, including that the accused plied his victim with alcohol, white wine, and that there was a ‘significant age gap’.

“The victim was closer to 15 than 17,” Judge Aylmer said.

Judge Aylmer said the most aggravating feature was ‘the terrible effect the offence had on a child victim.’

“There was a very culpable degree of recklessness,” Judge Aylmer said, placing it on the mid-range of such offending.

The offence carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Before considering mitigation, Judge Aylmer said the offence, which caused Ms Leece to suffer OCD, PTSD, anxiety and depression ‘for many years’, merited a sentence of two-and-a-half years in prison.

In mitigation, Judge Aylmer acknowledged that Walsh was fully co-operative, has no previous convictions and has not come to adverse Garda attention since the offence.

Four character references were submitted to the court on behalf of Walsh. Judge Aylmer accepted that Walsh was ‘remorseful’ and the Probation Service considered him as being at a low risk of reoffending.

Judge Aylmer reduced the sentence to one of 20 months imprisonment, noting that the offence was ‘too serious’ to suspend in its entirety.

The final eight months were suspended on Walsh entering into a bond of 100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for 12 months subsequent to his release.