A former garda detective has been jailed for four years for sexual assaults on his younger sister in the 1970s.

The 62-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the victim's anonymity, was aged 19 to 20 years old in the summer and autumn of 1979 when he repeatedly indecently assaulted the girl at the family home.

She was aged 15 at the time.

The now retired garda pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent assault and five counts of unlawful carnal knowledge of his sister on unknown dates between May to October 1979.

A garda witness told Eoin Lawlor BL, prosecuting, that the offences took place in the girl's bedroom and in a shed on a farm.

The abuse ended when the man began college.

Between 2005 and 2006, the woman told a doctor and her husband about the abuse. The allegation also became known to her siblings, which caused friction in the family as some members did not believe her.

Mr Lawlor read a victim impact statement on behalf of his client, stating: "Over the years, I always wanted to report it, but I felt I would not be believed."

The statement also outlined the woman "was only existing" and that she had tried to take her life on three occasions. While the woman was in the hospital, the man visited her and admitted to her that he had abused her.

During a phone conversation with the man's mother, he also admitted to abusing his sister as she had claimed.

In 2012, the man was questioned by gardaí and said he had been exiled from the family. He was then taken off public duty, and he retired shortly afterwards. No formal complaint was made at the time.

The man was charged in 2020.

Seoirse Ó Dúnlaing BL, defending, outlined to the court that his client has no previous conviction and entered a guilty plea which has spared his sister the trauma of a trial.

Patrick Gageby SC, defending, said that when the allegations first came to light in 2012, his client admitted to gardaí there had been "inappropriate behaviour" and it was "something he had lived with for 30 years".

He asked the court to take into consideration the man's responsibilities caring for his wife who has a degenerative illness and his involvement in a charitable organisation. He said his client is remorseful and has a strong sense of guilt.

He said this was a rather bleak end to an exemplary career of service to the State.

Judge Melanie Greally said the offending was a serious breach of trust and had had a serious effect on the victim.

She set a headline sentence of six years for the incest charges. She then took into consideration the mitigating factors including his guilty pleas, his lack of any other offending, his record of being a good husband and father and his distinguished public service career.

She noted his young age at the time of the offending and the passage of 40 years since. Taking all these mitigating factors into consideration, she said the appropriate sentence was one of four years imprisonment.