Judge throws out sex assault claim against garda as 'devoid of fact'
Published 02/04/2014 | 02:30
A WOMAN'S claim that she was sexually assaulted by a garda in his patrol car 13 years ago has been dismissed by the High Court as "devoid of any foundation in fact".
Retired garda Thomas Noonan's evidence was described by the judge as reliable and credible, while his accuser, hairdresser Antoinette Canty (33), was "incoherently drunk" after consuming 13 drinks on the night of the alleged incident.
The judge was satisfied she got a lift from a man in a dark car that night and something frightening had happened to her – but it was not Gda Noonan, who was in his white marked patrol car.
Ms Canty, from Causeway, Tralee, Co Kerry, claimed Gda Noonan had given her a lift and later locked her in the car before putting his hand on her thigh and shoulder. She managed to kick him off and get out near Listowel, Co Kerry, on the night of March 16/17, 2001, she said.
She sued Mr Noonan and the Justice Minister for sexual assault and false imprisonment.
Both denied the claims, with the minister's lawyers arguing he was not liable because there was a breach of regulations against carrying civilians in patrol cars.
In awarding Mr Noonan (60) his legal costs against both Ms Canty and the minister, Mr Justice O'Neill said he could see no basis for him being "abandoned by the State".
Previously, Mr Noonan claimed he was being victimised because he stopped the then justice minister John O'Donoghue's state car for speeding in September 2000.
Mr O'Donoghue told the Dail the car had been stopped for travelling at 86mph but his family was in it and not him at the time. The minister drew criticism after saying the car was "exempt" from normal limits.
Eight years later, Mr Noonan successfully brought High Court judicial review proceedings against the Garda Commissioner, claiming an internal disciplinary appeal board in relation to his fitness for duty was biased against him.
The judge granted an order quashing the disciplinary board's decision dealing with fitness for duty and not the stopping of the speeding car.
Yesterday, dismissing Ms Canty's case, the judge said she was 21 years of age and had consumed some 10 pints of beer and three sambuca shots on the night. He believed her story of that night was "wholly reconstructed or re-imagined".
The judge accepted Mr Noonan's evidence that he had come across Ms Canty that night on a number of occasions as she sought to get a lift home.
The garda had to ask her to leave a chip shop and because there were no cabs he offered to take her to nearby Listowel garda station so she could ring her mother.
The garda had done his duty "perfectly" and he had not breached any regulations relating to carrying civilians in patrol cars, the judge said.
When they got to the station, she got out saying she was not going into "any f***ing copshop" and ran off, he said.
Corroborating evidence included that of a man whose home she turned up at at around 5am, saying there was "a fella" after her. She was not dishevelled.
Around 20 minutes later, she turned up at the home of another family she knew in Lixnaw, Listowel, and she was clearly dishevelled this time and said then a garda had attacked her.
Mr Noonan's evidence that he had gone home during his meal break was corroborated by his daughter.
The judge found it was not possible for him to have gone home and carried out the alleged assault in the timescale involved in the "cross country journey", which Ms Canty claimed she had been taken on.