Sentence upheld for a father who abused his daughter
A Northern Ireland man jailed for sexually abusing his four-year-old daughter on the first night she was left in his care has failed in a bid to secure a reduced sentence.
The Court of Appeal rejected claims that the term of three years and nine months imposed on him was manifestly excessive.
Lord Justice McCloskey identified no sentencing flaws in a case involving an "appalling breach of trust and the acute vulnerability of the helpless child victim".
The 33-year-old man cannot be named to protect the identity of his daughter.
He carried out the abuse in August last year at the home of the little girl's grandmother.
It was the first night of overnight contact with his daughter, and they shared a bed.
The following morning she complained to another relative that her father had hurt her and "would not stop".
The man, referred to as GM, was arrested and protested his innocence.
But in December last year he pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual assault of a child.
Defence lawyers argued that the sentence subsequently imposed, split between half in prison and half on licence, was wrong in principle.
It was contended that the trial judge gave insufficient credit for GM's eventual admission.
Further grounds of appeal centred on her assessment of the impact on the child victim, and the risk of re-offending.
Rejecting all submissions, Lord Justice McCloskey pointed out that GM maintained a blanket denial to all allegations until late in the proceedings.
"His failure to acknowledge the extent of his offending at a considerably earlier stage is inexcusable and unjustifiable," he said.
The court also heard GM has a previous conviction for unlawful carnal knowledge of a 14-year-old girl when he was aged 21.
His legal team claimed that was an entirely different category of offending against a consenting injured party.
However, appeal judges backed the decision to assess him as posing a medium risk of re-offending.
Referring to his previous crime, Lord Justice McCloskey stressed: "The appellant knowingly and willingly broke the rules.
"Furthermore, whatever the romantic attachment, he knowingly and willingly subjected a young teenager to all of the risks associated with maintaining a relationship of this kind."
Dismissing the appeal, he concluded: "Our overarching conclusion (is) that this sentence is beyond reproach."