A man who falsely imprisoned an 11-year-old girl in Co Laois earlier this year has been sentenced to 17 years in jail at Portlaoise Circuit Court, with four years suspended.

Michael Martin, 36, from Dublin, who was living in Waterford when the incident occurred, grabbed the girl who was playing along the roadside near a motorway bridge in Culahill on 4 March.

However, the girl's ten-year-old brother punched him and clung onto the 4x4 vehicle Martin was driving, distracting him and allowing his sister to escape.

At a court hearing last week, gardaí described the girl's brother as "brave and heroic".

Gardaí told the hearing the girl's other brother later helped to identify the vehicle and part of its registration, which led to the arrest of Martin the following day.

Martin has previous convictions for sexually assaulting and abducting two other minors on separate offences and has already served almost ten years in jail.

Judge Keenan Johnson commended the work of gardaí in apprehending Martin.

He also praised the young girl’s brother and described him as extremely brave, showing a great presence of mind and maturity beyond his years.

Judge Johnson said the girl herself displayed great survival instincts when she escaped from the vehicle and the children deserved great credit for taking a mental note of part of the registration number.

He said this was an extremely serious offence and if the option was available to him he would have given Martin a life sentence, not to punish him, but to protect society from him. 

He said Martin had suffered a chronic post traumatic stress disorder after the death of his girlfriend by suicide while she was pregnant with their child.

He said Martin's counsel had quite rightly pointed out he had fallen through the cracks and it is a sad fact of life that many people like Martin have not been provided with the supports and assistance which would have helped them with their rehabilitation. 

The judge said he had serious concerns that Martin, without appropriate support and treatment in jail, is likely to re-offend when released.