Sunday 25 September 2016

Brother of Fine Gael Minister 'only realised seriousness of sex assault on girl (17) following counselling', court told

Published 15/03/2016 | 14:52

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THE brother of a Fine Gael Minister who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl has had his case adjourned for a year to assess his conduct.

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John Ring, aged 48, of 35 Bunbeag, Castlebar, Co Mayo, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the girl at a shop in Co Galway on July 22, 2014.

Today Mr Ring, brother of Minister of State Michael Ring, brought €2,000 in compensation to Galway Circuit Criminal Court for his victim. His barrister Eoin Garavan said his client had only realised the seriousness of his actions following counselling.

“It took Mr Ring some time to understand exactly what he did,” he said.

The court heard that Mr Ring had entered the rural store while the girl, who had just turned 17, was working on her own.

He moved very close to her, asking if she had a boyfriend and if she had a sore back. After leaving the shop briefly, Mr Ring returned and went to the back of the store, gesturing to the schoolgirl to join him.

There he again asked about a sore back, told her he was physiotherapist he began to massage her neck.

“I know what I’m doing,” he told her.

The court heard Mr Ring pushed his hands up against her and pulled down her blouse. The schoolgirl told gardai that Mr Ring put his knee against her legs trying to pry them open and told her to open her legs. He pressed his groin against her and she was aware that he was aroused, the court heard.

“I could not break his grip,” the girl told gardai, adding “I told him to stop but he would not.”

Mr Ring only ended the assault when another customer walked into the store, telling his victim; “Well you were not shy”.

As the schoolgirl walked home for lunch she became aware of Mr Ring following her in his van. He called her over, saying “I won’t bite.” He handed her his number on a piece of paper telling her to give him a call.

After the schoolgirl told her mother what had happened, she drove her back to work and the girl informed her boss.

That evening when Mr Ring returned to the shop he winked at her and stuck out his tongue. When a colleague confronted him he denied he had said anything to the girl and left the store. The owner of the shop then contacted the gardai.

The court heard that since the incident the girl was nervous, wary around strangers, especially men and could not walk down her road alone for quite a while.

The court heard Mr Ring was a self employed bread man. His relationship with his partner had broken down and he was estranged from his family including his 15-year-old daughter.

“His family will not speak to him at all since this,” said Mr Garavan who said they were disgusted and shamed by it.

Mr Garavan said a psychiatric report showed his client came from a “disfunctional background” and had been “quite clearly sexualised from a very young age”. The court heard his parents were alcoholics and his background was reflected in his very immature and inappropriate actions.

Judge Rory McCabe described it as a “very disturbing and sinister incident”.

He said the series of incidents were “frightening, deliberate, sustained, unsolicited and uninvited”.

Judge McCabe said he believed the the appropriate sentence was four years in prison. However, he said the terms in which he will deal with the case will depend on Mr Ring’s conduct over the next year.

He said it may be possible to deal with this other than by imposing a custodial sentence. However  he would give “no guarantee whatsoever” that this would be the outcome

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