A man who raped his niece on multiple occasions while she babysat his children has been jailed for ten years.

The 54-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, began sexually abusing his niece when she was 15 years old.

The Central Criminal Court heard that the victim became pregnant as a result and gave birth to a child.

The Laois man was convicted following a trial this year at the Central Criminal Court of four counts of rape and one count of sexual assault at an address in Co Laois on unknown dates between 1 June, 2004 and 31 March, 2005.

He has no previous convictions and continues to deny the offences.

Passing sentence, Ms Justice Eileen Creedon said the man was in a position of "trust and authority" when the offending took place in a house where the victim was "entitled to feel safe".

Ms Justice Creedon said this was "a very serious breach of trust" and a "dereliction of duty" in relation to a young girl.

She said it was very clear these offences have had "a very profound, negative impact" on the victim.

She noted from a Probation Service report that the man continues to deny the offences and claims that there was a consensual sexual relationship. She said according to the report, the man continues to attribute blame to the victim and considers himself a victim.

The judge said the man did not offer a plea and there has been no acknowledgement of the verdict, no apology and no demonstration of remorse.

She said there was very little by way of mitigation in the case, save for the man's lack of previous convictions, his cooperation with the investigation and his being well integrated into the community.

Ms Justice Creedon sentenced the man to 11 years imprisonment, but suspended the final year of the sentence on strict conditions.

At a previous sentencing hearing, a local garda told Patrick McGrath SC, prosecuting, that the victim began babysitting for her uncle in the summer of 2004 after his relationship with his wife broke down.

The garda said that on the fourth occasion the victim babysat for the accused man, he raped her following a prior instance of sexual assault. The victim was aged 15 at the time.

The court heard that a "pattern" emerged where the man would go out drinking on Saturday nights before returning home, waking the victim and raping her on the couch of the sitting room in the property.

The garda agreed with Mr McGrath that the victim became pregnant with the accused man's child in late 2004. The child was subsequently born the following year.

The court heard that it took the victim "a long time" to muster up the courage to report the offences, but she eventually went to the gardaí in September 2015 after discussing the abuse with her partner.

The accused man was arrested and interviewed by gardaí multiple times, denying the allegations of rape.

He told gardaí that the injured party had "come on to him" and claimed that she was of age when they entered into a consensual sexual relationship.

In her victim impact statement, which was read before the court by prosecuting counsel while the victim sat in the witness box, she spoke extensively of her uncle's "manipulation" and feelings of anxiety and shame that have plagued her since the abuse.

"My teenage years… were stolen from me," she said.

The victim detailed her struggles to cope in the aftermath of the incident, which affected her self-image, her schooling and her relationships.

She detailed how her child was almost given up for adoption, but wrote how she could not face "the guilt of giving away my own son".

"He is my son, but he is also my best friend," the statement read.

Patrick Gageby SC, defending, outlined his client’s mitigation to the court, noting that he has no other criminal convictions.

He said his client is otherwise "entirely of good character".