A 47-year-old man has been given a seven year sentence, with the final three years suspended, for sexually assaulting his 10-year-old niece three years ago.

The man had denied the charge but was convicted by a jury after a two week trial.

The trial heard how he had gone home early from a social family gathering on the night of 26 November, 2016 to allow the babysitter go home.

He had entered the bedroom where his niece, who is also his goddaughter, was sleeping, and sexually assaulted her. A jury found him guilty, but he still does not accept the verdict.

At his sentencing hearing today, in Clonmel, the Circuit Court heard he had already suffered a profound punishment of sorts as he had no contact whatsoever with his wife and two boys, aged 12 and 15, since the verdict.

He had also been ostracised and shamed by his wider extended family.

It was described as a tragic and distressing case which had a divisive effect on the two families involved who had been close up to the events of that night when the girl was sexually assaulted.

The mother of the victim and the wife of the accused man are sisters.

A psychiatric report presented to the court outlined how the convicted man had suffered a number of mental health difficulties and had been hospitalised for a depressive episode five years ago, and continues to be on medication for a depressive disorder.

Sentencing him today, Judge Tom Teehan said the effect on the young victim and what happened her that November night was equal to an explosion being detonated in the family and from that moment on things changed fundamentally.

"When evil deeds are done, the tentacles reach out very far."

The judge said he regarded the action of the convicted man as being at the top end of the middle range of offences. He said he held a position of trust within the family because of their close relationship and because of the nature of his work.

He said the appropriate sentence was 7 years, with the final three years suspended.

The identity of the convicted man cannot be disclosed to protect the identity of the victim. The Judge also ruled that the former profession of the convicted man not be made public as it could place him in jeopardy in prison.