Wednesday 18 January 2017

Cyclist who sexually assaulted unconscious woman in hotel foyer jailed following appeal

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 21/11/2016 | 16:56

Edmund Stewart (33), with an address at Ardgate Place, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, had pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman at the Farnham Arms Hotel in Co Cavan on June 24, 2012. Pic Collins Courts
Edmund Stewart (33), with an address at Ardgate Place, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, had pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a woman at the Farnham Arms Hotel in Co Cavan on June 24, 2012. Pic Collins Courts

A man who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman on a couch in a hotel foyer, has been sent to jail after his original suspended sentence was found to be “unduly lenient”.

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Edmund Stewart (33), with an address at Ardgate Place, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, had pleaded guilty at Cavan Circuit Criminal Court to sexually assaulting a woman at the Farnham Arms Hotel in Co Cavan on June 24, 2012.

Stewart was given a wholly suspended three-year sentence by Judge John O'Haganon March 2, 2016.

The Court of Appeal found Stewart's sentence to be “unduly lenient” on Monday following an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was accordingly jailed for nine months.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice John Edwards said Stewart was a member of a cycling club who were staying in the hotel and had spent time drinking in Cavan Town.

In the early hours of June 24, a woman who had drink consumed to the extent that she was unconcious, was seen slumped on a couch in the hotel foyer.

One of Stewart's companion described seeing movement on the couch and noticed Stewart was beside her. When he came back into the bar, his companion asked Stewart what he had done to the girl.

Stewart put two fingers to his nose and sniffed them. He asked his companion if he wished to smell his fingers. Stewart then stuck his index finger into his mouth and sucked.

His companion was so disgusted with what he heard, he reported the incident, Mr Justice Edwards said. It had also been captured on CCTV.

Mr Justice Edwards said Stewart was a single man at the time but was now in a stable long-term relationship.

His only previous convictions were for minor road traffic matters, the judge said. He had been working as a bus driver at the time of the offence but was let go as a result of his involvement in this offence.

In a statement, the victim described feelings of disgust that she was violated in such a manner. She found it difficult to believe that somebody could be so offensive, the judge said. She had feelings of guilt on account of having consumed alcohol, blacking out and falling asleep.

Counsel for the DPP, Monica Lawlor BL, submitted that the sentencing judge failed to take account of the fact that Stewart had taken advantage of a young woman in a vulnerable state.

On any view, Mr Justice Edwards said the offence required the imposition of a custodial sentence to be actually served. The original sentence was “unduly lenient”, he said.

Having regard to the fact that Stewart was of previous good character, Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, re-sentenced him to three years imprisonment with all but nine months of that term suspended.

In circumstances where time had moved on, the court acknowledged that it would be difficult at this remove for Stewart to face custody.

He was lead away to begin serving his nine month jail term.

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