Monday 24 November 2014

Garda sergeant accused of groping colleague has conviction quashed

Tom Tuite

Published 15/01/2013 | 05:00

Gda Sgt Martin Woods leaving the Circuit Court in Dublin with his partner after his conviction for sexual assault was overturned

A GARDA sergeant has been cleared of sexually assaulting a female colleague who had claimed he groped her before telling her "I'd say you're some screamer in bed".

Gda Sgt Martin Woods (49) had pleaded not guilty to a sexual assault charge but had been convicted and fined €1,000 following a hearing at Dublin District Court last March.

Sgt Woods, who has 29 years' service in An Garda Siochana, then lodged an appeal to the Circuit Court in Dublin aimed at overturning that conviction.

The appeal was heard and Judge Terrence O'Sullivan held that his conviction should be quashed as there was insufficient evidence that the manner in which he touched the officer constituted an act of indecency, and the remark said to her afterwards could have been interpreted as a kind of joke comment.

The woman told the appeal court that on a date in June 2010 she had been at work and was returning a camera to a wall-mounted cabinet in an office in a Dublin garda station. The cabinet was located behind the sergeant's desk and she moved into a two-foot gap beside the sergeant who was working on a computer facing forwards.

She claimed she stood beside him as there was no room to get behind him. The woman alleged that she leaned towards the cabinet and stretched out one arm and was standing on one leg to reach it when the sergeant "raised his right hand and grabbed the inside of my right upper thigh".

She added that he grabbed her inches from her genital area.

She said she "screamed at the top of her voice". She claimed that the incident lasted a couple of seconds: "I was hopping on one leg, it felt like he was holding me for an eternity."

The woman wept as she told the court that she hit him and felt shocked. "I was disgusted, angry and felt dirty," she said.

The woman also alleged that when she left his office, the sergeant walked up to her at the doorway and said: "I would say you are some screamer in bed." The officer also said the sergeant later apologised to her.

When she went home, she noticed a bruise where she claimed she had been touched.

In cross-examination with defence counsel John Ferry, she rejected suggestions that the sergeant touched her "much lower down" and that it had been a joke, or she was mistaken in her interpretation of the events.

"What gives him the right to touch me whether it is a joke or a playful matter? Why should he touch me in the first place?", she answered.

Touched

Judge O'Sullivan said he found it difficult to understand how the woman managed to replace the camera by stretching out in the manner she described.

"If the sergeant was able to reach and grapple with the inner part of her right thigh, I doubt she could have managed that."

The evidence that she was allegedly touched close to her genital area was not sufficient to establish there was an indecent element to the incident. The remark made to her came afterwards and while it was "not a nice comment, it could have been made in a jocose fashion", the judge said.

He allowed the appeal, quashing the sexual assault conviction after which the sergeant hugged his partner and family members who had watched from the public gallery.

Irish Independent

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