Father-of-two jailed for rape of young girl who took job with him 'to fulfill dream of becoming vet'

A horse trader and convicted rapist has been sentenced to nine years in prison for the rape of a young girl who came to work with him because she dreamed of becoming a vet.

The now 41-year-old woman told the Central Criminal Court that John Phelan (54) changed the entire path of her life when she took a summer job with him looking after animals on local farms.

The woman, who waived her anonymity so that Phelan could be named, said the job she had taken hoping to prepare for her future, instead led to the end of her dreams.

Phelan of Kilbricken, Mountrath, Co Laois pleaded guilty to four charges of sexual assault and two of raping the woman when she was aged between 14 and 16 years at various locations in Laois, including at his home, on dates between 1992 and 1993.

He entered the pleas after the trial had commenced and the woman had given her direct evidence, but before she underwent cross-examination.

Phelan, a married father-of-two, served a seven year sentence from 2008 for raping and sexually abusing a young girl in 1989 and 1990 when she was between nine and 11 years old.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy had adjourned sentencing after hearing the evidence last July.

She noted that Phelan had previously lied during “A better lives programme” he participated in while serving the Central Criminal Court sentence. He claimed he had not engaged in “a sexual deviant lifestyle” since 1990 which the judge said was “simply not true”.

The report concluded that Phelan did not demonstrate “a sexual preference for minors” and he was released in 2013 under post release supervision. It was during this period that Phelan came under investigation for this case.

Ms Justice Murphy said a current probation report before the court stated that the officer found it “difficult to accept Phelan’s assertion” that he didn’t have a sexual preference for under age girls.

The judge made reference to the victim impact statement saying that the woman had commented on the “randomness of life” and how Phelan’s abuse of her changed the entire course of her life.

“He took from her, her innocence, her virginity and her dreams of becoming a vet,” the judge said.

“He groomed and manipulated her into submitting,” Ms Justice Murphy said adding that Phelan “sent her out damaged into the world”.

She described the abuse as “calculated and exploitative” and said that some of the offences occurred when his wife was pregnant with twins and that Phelan had raped the young girl in his marital bed.

Ms Justice Murphy said that she felt it was most likely that Phelan pleaded guilty after hearing the victim’s “strong” evidence because “he sought to rescue what he could from the wreckage”.

She acknowledged that a plea of guilty, no matter how late in the process, validated the victim and confirmed to the world that she was telling the truth.

Ms Justice Murphy sentenced Phelan to nine years in prison with the final 18 months suspended. She ordered that Phelan serve three year post release supervision.

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