Irish Jury awards €1 million in damages to woman raped by her former boyfriend

In July, 2015 Magnus Meyer Hustveit pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court in Ireland to one count of rape and one count of sexual assault committed against his 28-year-old girlfriend between 2011 and 2012.

Hustveit who is Norwegian had sent an email to his former partner, Niamh Ní Dhomhnaill where he admitted to using Ms Ní Dhomhnaill body for his sexual gratification while she was asleep. At the time Ms Ní Dhomhnaill was taking medication that made her sleep heavily.

After one such episode Ms Ní Dhomhnaill woke up and confronted Hustveit, afterwards Hustveit sent her an email outlining that he had repeatedly sexually assaulted and raped her although he went on to say he had only done so as Ms Ní Dhomhnaill had not allowed him to watch pornography.

On the 13th  July, 2015 Hustveit was sentenced to seven years, however, Mr Justice McCarthy suspended the entire prison sentence at that time saying it was an exceptional case,  Hustveit had admitted his guilt in emails to the victim and in court and without those admissions it would not have been possible to prosecute him.

At the time of the original criminal trial Ms. Ní Dhomhnaill waived her right to anonymity to enable Hustveit to be named publicly

The DPP in Ireland appealed the original 2015 sentence and the matter came before the Court of Appeal in March, 2016.

The Court of Appeal held that the trial judge had erred in suspending the entire sentence and set that sentence aside. The Court of Appeal went on to rule that the seven-year sentence should stand but it would suspend all but 15 months of it.

Ms Ní Dhomhnaill who brought a personal injury claim in the High Court seeking damages against Hustveit in respect of multiple acts of sexual assault on dates unknown between May 2011 to the end April 2012 was yesterday awarded a total €1 million damages by a High Court jury.

Ms Ní Dhomhnaill told the jury in evidence she “felt unsafe everywhere” as a result of the sexual abuse, she has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, has been unable to continue her much loved career as a teacher, had to leave Ireland for several years to try to come to terms with what had happened to her, and had tried to take her own life on one occasion. She has attended weekly therapy sessions with a psychotherapist. At times she has struggled to leave her bedroom and home. All her relationships and friendships had been affected and she continues to feel frightened about trusting people, including her parents. She continues to have disturbing nightmares and could not say how she would be in ten years.

The jury heard evidence from a consultant psychiatrist who rated the impact of the assaults on Ms Ní Dhomhnaill as being about nine to nine and a half out of ten on a scale on severity

Judgment was entered in default of defence (i.e. Husveit had chosen not to defend the proceedings, he is now back living in Norway) Mr Justice Max Barrett directed the jury that their only task was to assess damages.

Having heard evidence from Ms Ní Dhomhnaill, her mother and a consultant psychiatrist, the jury assessed damages in a total sum of €1million, which they broke down as follows:-

  • €350,000 general damages,
  • €400,000 aggravated damages and
  • €250,000 punitive damages.

Having been awarded such significant damages the next obstacle that Ms Ni Dhomhnaill now faces is enforcing that judgment against Hustveit who has returned to live in Norway.  In order to do so she will no doubt have to rely on her rights under the Convention on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters of 30 October 2007 (Lugano Convention) between the EU member states and Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.

This judgement is further evidence of a developing jurisprudence where victims are choosing to sue their abuser directly.


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Written by James Chambers at BLM

james.chambers@blmlaw.com

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