A Sligo man who raped a woman he had just met on Tinder has been jailed for nine years.
Christopher Feeney (59) was found guilty of four counts of raping and sexually assaulting the woman at his home address at Millbrook, Riverside, Sligo on April 26, 2015, following a Central Criminal Court trial last September.
The court heard, at an earlier sentence hearing last December, that after gardaí were alerted to the woman's plight, they told her to hang a towel on the balcony so they could identify which apartment she was in.
They arrived at the apartment a short time after the woman managed to do this and Feeney was arrested. He admitted sexual intercourse had taken place between himself and the woman, but claimed it was consensual.
A local sergeant told Leo Mulrooney BL, prosecuting, at the sentence hearing last December that Feeney and his victim, then aged 54, met on the dating app Tinder and she travelled from another county to meet him in Sligo town. The pair went out for drinks before returning to Feeney's home in the early hours of the morning.
During the attack, described by Mr Justice David Keane as an “ordeal” that continues to “haunt” his victim, Feeney told the woman that nobody could hear her screams as she cried and begged him to stop.
Feeney fled the jurisdiction while gardaí were awaiting instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was arrested in the UK in 2019 and brought back to Ireland. He has been in custody since then.
Feeney pleaded not guilty to one count of rape, one count of oral rape, two counts of sexually assaulting the woman and one count of false imprisonment. He was found guilty on all counts except for the false imprisonment charge, which the jury was unable to agree on.
Eoin McGovern BL, defending, said his client does not accept the verdict of the jury. Feeney has one previous conviction for drink-driving.
Mr Justice Keane commended the woman for giving simple and direct evidence to the jury during the trial.
“There is no doubt she has suffered considerable psychological harm,” he said.
The judge noted that Feeney has shown no remorse, made no amends and has not embarked on any rehabilitation because he continues to deny his crimes.
In a victim impact statement handed into court and read out by counsel, the woman said she has never told her family what happened to her as she is so ashamed.
“I feel such shame, even though I know it's not my shame. It's his as the perpetrator,” the woman wrote. She said she struggles with anxiety in the wake of the attack and has “dark days” where she fears she will never have a partner again.
“My constant thoughts on that terrible night were: Am I going to get out of here alive?” she said. The woman was not in court for the sentence hearing.
Mr Justice Keane had previously adjourned the sentence after indicating that he would impose a nine-year sentence. He said he wanted a report from the Probation Service to ascertain if he could suspend any of that sentence.
On Wednesday, June 1, Mr Justice Keane noted that although the probation report concluded that Feeney was at a low risk of re-offending, Feeney had not provided any evidence in relation to any of the mitigation he had put forward on his own behalf.
The judge noted that there was no supporting evidence to Feeney’s assertions about his current family support, his previous history of employment, his former addiction to alcohol or his rehabilitation from that addiction.
He said that these factors could reduce Feeney’s risk of re-offending but because there is no supporting evidence to his claims “very little weight can be placed on it”.
Mr Justice Keane said he was therefore not in a position to suspend any of the sentence.
He imposed concurrent sentences of nine years for each the rape and oral rape and two concurrent terms of four years for each of the sexual assault offences, resulting in an effective nine-year jail term. He also imposed a three-year post release supervision order and Feeney was registered as a sex offender.
The woman, who is legally entitled to anonymity, told gardaí that her “heart sank” when she saw that the sleeping arrangement in Feeney's apartment was two beds pushed together. She told Feeney she wanted to get to know him first and he suggested they put pillows down the middle of the bed.
As soon as they were in bed, Feeney started trying to touch her. The woman resisted and he left the bedroom. She dozed off and woke to find him back in bed with her. He pinned her arms back and proceeded to sexually assault and rape her.
Throughout the ordeal, which lasted for about an hour, the woman said she thought she was going to die. She screamed repeatedly in the hopes the neighbours would hear, but Feeney told her there were no neighbours to hear her.
When the woman managed to get out of the bedroom and in to the bathroom, she texted a friend saying: “Help, this is serious. Call the police.”
When gardaí phoned her shortly afterwards, the woman told them what apartment block she was in before being told to hang a towel on the balcony to help identify her location.
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