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Sentence Reduced Of Man In Case That Sparked Abortion Crisis

March 14, 1995

DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) _ Appeal judges on Tuesday sharply reduced the jail term imposed on a businessman in a sexual assault case that prompted a change in Ireland’s abortion law.

The ruling cutting the man’s sentence from 14 to four years came as Parliament appeared likely to pass a bill that would allow doctors to give women abortion information, the first loophole in the nation’s ban on abortion.

The assault case forced a referendum in November 1992 that approved travel abroad for abortions after the 14-year-old girl who was assaulted was initially forbidden by the attorney general from traveling to Britain for an abortion.

The businessman, now 46, was convicted in June 1994 of having unlawful sex with the girl when she was under the age of consent and of indecent assault.

The appeal judges, in shortening his sentence, said the man’s life already had been ruined.

``We must also hold out some possibility of hope and redemption for this applicant,″ said Appeal Judge Hugh O’Flaherty. ``He has displayed genuine remorse ... He has suffered grievously.″

The man, who cannot be identified under Irish law, sat beside a prison guard at the back of the Appeal Court during the ruling. Wearing a dark suit and handcuffed to a prison guard, he left immediately afterward.

The Supreme Court overturned the ban on traveling abroad for an abortion in the girl’s case on the grounds she was suicidal. She subsequently miscarried when she was three months pregnant.

The Supreme Court decision, however, left the law confused and forced the 1992 referendum that approved travel abroad for abortions, but retained the abortion ban in Ireland.

The Irish Senate on Tuesday debated a loophole in the abortion ban, a law that would allow doctors to give pregnant women the names and addresses of English abortion clinics. Vehemently opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, the law was approved Friday in the Dail, Parliament’s lower house. If passed by the Senate, it would require signature by President Mary Robinson before becoming law.

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