Gardaí pressured victim to defend her rapist in court 3 years ago

Gardaí pressured victim to defend her rapist in court

A rape survivor has spoken of how she was pressured to defend her attacker in court.

Debbie Cole was raped by Robert Melia in 1991 when she was 19.


Speaking on The Late Late Show on Friday night, she said that while he was in Garda custody awaiting sentencing, she received a visit at home from a guard.

He told Debbie that her rapist had tried to die by suicide in prison "because he had felt so sorry for what he had done.

"This was mistake he had made with drink on him," Debbie said the guard told her. "He was a respectable man, had never been in trouble with the guards, came from a lovely family."

The guard asked Debbie to defend for Melia in court.

Gardaí pressured victim to defend her rapist in court

"When we went for the day of the trial I actually did speak up for him.

"I know - it didn't make sense but I believed the guard. Guards are there to protect you so I believe was the guard told me.


"I told the judge that I forgave him and that I felt that he needed psychiatric help rather than a prison sentence."

The judge had been planning on handing down a prison sentence in double figures, Debbie continued, "but because I spoke up for him he gave him six years."

Within a few days of being in prison, Melia tried take his own life again and was sent to the Central Mental Hospital in Dundrum.

Gardaí pressured victim to defend her rapist in court

"From there he sent me out letters, love letters. Now I'd never met this man before the night of the rape and I never spoke to him afterwards."


Debbie said she was then contacted by Melia's sister, who asked her to visit the man in hospital. Debbie went along.

"I was told that he was going to commit suicide and that it'd be on my guilt, my conscience.

"It was horrific. To go into somewhere like that and sit across the table from the guy that raped you is just unbelievable."

Later that night, after the visit, Debbie said that she tried to end her own life at home.


Gardaí pressured victim to defend her rapist in court

After serving six year, Melia was released and went on to assault three women. He was jailed again but attacked another woman upon his release.

He's currently behind bars but is due to be freed this October.

Debbie was on The Late Late to call for stricter sentencing for repeat sexual assault offenders.



Organisations that offer support to victims of sexual assault:

Rape Crisis Network Ireland: 091 563676

A guide to the legal process for survivors of sexual violence via Rape Crisis here

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre: 1800 77 8888

Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline Northern Ireland: 0808 802 1414

One In Four: (01) 6624070

Sexual Assault Treatment Units: via the HSE here