A Donegal man has been sent to prison for sexually assaulting a young girl over a three year period.
John Patrick Coyle, now 63, was jailed when he appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court, charged with six counts of sexual assault.
The victim, now aged in her 20s, was just eight years old when first targeted by Coyle, who was aged 46-49 at the time of the incidents, which occurred between 2006 and 2008.
Coyle, with an address in Fanad, identified his victim as someone who wouldn’t fight back.
As well as serving time in jail, Coyle – who has become estranged from his family – will also be placed on the sex offender’s register.
The first incident occurred in the victim’s bedroom. She was laying on her bed watching TV when Coyle put his hands under her clothing and rubbed her vagina.
On the second occasion, also in the victim’s bedroom, Coyle put his hands inside the girl’s pants and rubbed her vagina. He also placed his hands up her top and rubbed her breast area before pulling the girl’s face towards him and kissing her on the lips.
The third charge related to an incident on Christmas Eve when the accused also put his hands under the victim’s clothing, rubbing her vagina and breast areas.
On another occasion, Coyle touched the victim’s vaginal area outside her clothes.
On two other dates, Coyle touched the victim’s breast area while they were passengers in a car.
Garda Eugene Organ told the court that Coyle was arrested on December 2, 2021 and taken to Milford Garda Station.
In interviews, Coyle admitted touching the victim on the breast and bum, but did not accept that he touched her vagina.
Subsequently, Coyle pleaded guilty, telling Gardai: “I’m not going to deny it.”
In a victim impact statement, read to the court by State prosecutor Ms Patricia McLaughlin, the victim told how ‘the terrible secret ate me up inside’ before she reported the matter.
“I was an innocent child and he stripped me of my one safe place,” she said
“I felt powerless. I became very quiet, shy and timid. I became more vulnerable and felt a sense of guilt.
“I was scared that my massive secret would destroy my family and no-one would believe me.”
As soon as she spoke to family members, the victim said she ‘felt a weight lifted off my shoulders’.
Barrister for Coyle, Mr Gareth McCrory BL, said his client wished that he ‘could turn back time’.
Coyle has become separated from his wife and children since these offences came to light.
A probation report said Coyle targeted his victim due to her young age and said he ‘lacks insight’.
Mr McCrory told the court that Coyle feels ‘remorse and shame’.
Judge John Aylmer said there was a ‘somewhat predatory’ nature to the incidents.
“The accused identified a child as being vulnerable, someone who wouldn’t fight back or resist.
“This involved a significant breach of trust and there were multiple offences over a three-year period.”
Judge Aylmer said the offences merited a starting point of five years in prison before considering mitigation.
Coyle has no previous convictions and a full and frank admission. A guilty plea spared the victim the ordeal of a trial, Judge Aylmer said.
Judge Aylmer noted that Coyle had no contact with his wife or children and his sister was now his ‘only support’.
“He is remorseful, but the level is questionable,” Judge Aylmer said. “He appears to lack victim empathy and much of his remorse arises from the effect it had on himself rather than the victim.”
Coyle was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison with the final 12 months suspended on the defendant entering into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for 12 months following his release.
Coyle is also to go under the supervision of the Probation Service.