The Court of Appeal has heard a challenge over a man’s suspended sentence for raping and sexually assaulting his Irish girlfriend in her sleep
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has asked the Court to find a suspended sentence imposed on Norwegian Magnus Meyer Hustveit, who regularly raped and sexually assaulted his Irish girlfriend in her sleep, was unduly lenient.
The 26-year-old was sentenced to seven years in July 2015 after admitting to one count of rape and one count of sexual assault of a 28-year-old woman in Dublin between 2011 and 2012.
However Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy suspended the entire prison sentence after saying it was “a very exceptional case.”
Hustveit, a Norwegian man who has since left Ireland, was prompted to send an email to his former partner, Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill admitting details of his assaults. He told her he had been using her body for his “gratification” for nearly a year.
Ms Ní Dhomhnaill waived her right to anonymity to allow Hustveit to be named.
Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would reserve judgment.
At the sentence hearing, Judge McCarthy said he had to consider the fact that there would be no rational case had the accused not admitted his wrong doings by email. The judge said the case had come to court “out of Hustveit’s own mouth”.
He said in over three decades on the bench he had never come across a case like this.
Prosecuting counsel, Mary Rose Gearty reminded the court that the case involved admission of ten counts of rape and of multiple weekly assaults over the course of a year.
She noted that this case was unusual in that it combined a sleeping victim and a relationship. Ms Gearty said the betrayal of trust was “extraordinary”.
She told the three judges that the sentencing judge made a mistake by not acknowledging that the man’s conduct over a lengthy period merited a custodial sentence.
She said the DPP’s view was that the suspension of the entire seven year sentence was unduly lenient.
She said although Hustveit had claimed to be full of remorse – he was not remorseful in the eyes of Ms Ní Dhomhnaill. In an interview the victim said “I remember thinking it was odd that he had not made an attempt to say he was sorry.”
Gearty agreed that the sentencing judge accepted the very serious nature of the offences, the effect on Ms Ní Dhomhnaill and the extraordinary betrayal of trust.
However, she said he was misguided in his decision that because the accused admitted in writing to the offences, this should have the effect of eradicating a custodial sentence for his actions.
She said the court should be aware of the message the suspended sentence sent out to others in Ms Ní Dhomhnaill’s position or the message to people in the convicted man’s position about what society says about this kind of behaviour.
Senior Counsel, Caroline Biggs said the case was very complex. She said her client had openly provided the information that led to this prosecution. He had put his own interests aside in writing the email.
She said this case was wholly unique because of the exceptional circumstances which came from the convicted man himself. He had provided an explanation of the offences in his email.
She said the fact that there were multiple rapes over a period of time did not preclude a suspended sentence.
Speaking on RTE Radio One’s Ray D’Arcy Show, Ms Ní Dhomhnaill said the suspended sentence sent out “the wrong message” to victims of rape and sexual violence.
She also told Newstalk Breakfast’s Chris Donoghue: “I think it sends such a clear message to Irish society that rape and sexual violence is not being taken seriously enough.
“I’m still very shocked at the ruling.”
She wrote this piece for the Irish Independent, in order to encourage victims of sexual assault to speak out: www.independent.ie
The court will give its decision on 15 March.
Magnus Meyer Hustveit remains a free man in the meantime and the court said that this “should not be taken as any indication one way or another” as to what the outcome is likely to be.