Comment: Long and difficult path to justice

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Child abuse victim, Fiona Doyle achieved vindication in dramatic style last week, when Mr Justice Paul Carney admitted a mistake in relation in his initial sentencing of her abuser father and reversed his decision.

Child abuse victim, Fiona Doyle achieved vindication in dramatic style last week, when Mr Justice Paul Carney admitted a mistake in relation in his initial sentencing of her abuser father and reversed his decision.

It was a salutary moment, and one we seldom see in Irish public life, that of a public figure admitting an error, unreservedly.

The outcome, of course, was that Ms Doyle finally achieved justice, after a supremely brave 20-year campaign to bring the perpetuator of these heinous crimes to book.

Her efforts were indeed courageous. She put everything on the line in her pursuit of justice, even waiving her own anonymity.

Last week’s court drama, however, should not obscure the length of time it took for her to get her day in court.

The reality is that it took her 20 years from the time she first reported it.

At that stage she was not believed.

A report made to the Gardai was not acted upon, and there is no record of it.

In taking this case, she has done a lot of service for the victims of abuse everywhere.

For every Fiona Doyle, there are at least five other people who never realise justice, whose cases are not taken up, or a decision is taken not to prosecute by the DPP’s office. Fiona Doyle herself has spoken of the loneliness, lack of support and isolation which her actions led to.

Unfortunately, this is probably all too common.

Socially, personally and circumstantially, it takes courage to take these cases.

The Doyle case, demonstrates, that justice can be achieved, even if the road remains too long and difficult.

The Doyle case is important for a number of reasons, not least in putting the focus back onto sentencing policy for rape and child abuse.

There have been calls for greater consistency, and some direction on minimum sentences.

The path to justice for victims of child or any kind of abuse should be easier.