Mother jailed for sex assault of sonDublin People 18 Nov 2022
By Eimear Dodd
A man who was sexually assaulted by his mother as an infant said he was “punished and effectively exiled for being abused”.
Fionn Daly waived his anonymity at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to allow his mother, Suzanna Hassett (66) to be named.
Hassett of Westbourne Grove, Clondalkin, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of indecent assault on dates between 1984 and 1987, when her son was aged up to three years old.
She further pleaded to four counts of sexual assault on dates between 1992 and 1995 when her son was aged seven and 11 years old.
Hassett has no previous convictions.
In his victim impact statement, Mr Daly said he is still trying to understand and come to terms with the “extreme abuse” he was subjected to.
“One of the hardest things to come to terms with is how young I was when it started. I was still in nappies when it started,” he said.
Mr Daly told the court his childhood was a “long cry for help that no one answered”.
Imposing sentence during a late evening sitting yesterday, Judge Martin Nolan said there had been a “huge betrayal of trust” by Hassett of her son, who was “entitled to unconditional love and protection from his mother”, but did not get this.
“It is hard to imagine a greater betrayal,” Judge Nolan said.
He imposed a total sentence of eight years with the final 18 months suspended on strict conditions, including that Hassett come under the supervision of the Probation Service for 12 months post-release
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that he made a complaint to gardai in 2017 in relation to incidents which occurred between 1992 and 1995.
After Mr Daly went to gardai, Hassett entered counselling during which she admitted her offending during the 1980s
The investigating garda told Monika Leech BL, prosecuting, that the victim recalled lying in bed beside his mother. She then took his hand and used it to masturbate herself.
Mr Daly recalled similar incidents took place on days when he was not in school and his father was at work. It is estimated that these incidents took place two or three times a week over 18 months.
The investigating garda said the Hassett’s sister had made a complaint to gardai in 2000 alleging that Hassett had masturbated the victim when he was a baby.
However Hassett denied the allegations when gardai spoke to her and no prosecution took place.
After Mr Daly made a complaint to gardai, he told his family.
Hassett initially denied any wrongdoing.
Her husband continued to ask her about it and she subsequently admitted to the sexual assaults of the victim when he was a child.
The accused then was asked to leave the family home, which she did.
Her husband ended their relationship and the couple are divorcing.
Hassett agreed to attend counselling, during which she made further admissions which were disclosed to gardai.
She also made admissions when speaking to a Tusla social worker.
When interviewed by gardai for a second time in March 2019, Hassett admitted to fondling her son’s penis in an attempt to comfort him when he was a baby.
She also acknowledged that she masturbated him and used his arm to masturbate herself. Hassett said this occurred a number of times a week until her son was no longer in nappies.
The investigating garda agreed with defence counsel that his client had an “unblemished character” before these events came to light. His client attended voluntarily an interview with gardai in December 2018 and was very distressed at this time.
The garda witness also agreed that Hassett had been co-operative and admitted to the incidents during the 1980s, which were not part of the initial investigation, while speaking to gardai.
The garda accepted that Hassett had entered an early guilty plea to the counts relating to events in the 1980s. A trial date was initially taken for the counts relating to the 1990s, but the accused entered a plea shortly before the trial was due to start.
Hassett had attended counselling on and off since the 1980s to help her address her issues.
The accused’s relationship with her three sons has also broken down and she is living an isolated existence.
Defence counsel said his client wished to publicly apologise to her son. A letter of apology was read to the court, in which she said “as a mother, I should have looked after you, not harmed you”.
His client was sexually abused herself by a family member when she was 11 and was molested on other occasions as a teenager. She was also sexualised at a young age.
Hassett is a mother of three sons and despite her significant failures, her children had achieved academically.
A number of reports and testimonials were handed into the court on Hassett’s behalf. One report stated that she is considered at low risk of re-offending and does not meet the criteria for paedophilia and there is also no evidence of an erotic attraction to children.
Judge Martin Nolan said Hassett had “used her son” during these periods for “her own gratification for reasons know only to herself”, He noted the mitigating factors including the guilty pleas and co-operation with gardai.
He noted that she had taken steps to deal with her underlying issues and is unlikely to offend in the future. He said that Hassett is remorseful for her actions.
Judge Nolan said Hassett must be punished for the “wrongdoing and harm done to her son”.
He imposed a six year sentence in relation to the indecent assault count and a two-year sentence in relation to the sexual assault count, taking all other charges into consideration. Both sentences are to run consecutively.
Judge Nolan suspended the final 18 months of the sentence on strict conditions, including that Hassett remain under the supervision of the Probation Services for 12 months post-release.