Thursday 8 December 2016

Man (23) receives suspended sentence for sexually assaulting woman while she slept in her own bed after party

Andrew Phelan

Published 08/01/2016 | 15:04

Stephen McCarthy (23)
Stephen McCarthy (23)

A man who sexually assaulted a woman following a party as she slept in her bed has been given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence.

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Stephen McCarthy (23) initially told gardai when questioned that he “tripped and landed on top of” the victim.

McCarthy, of Esker Hills, Portlaoise pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual assault at a house in the city in June 2013.

Suspending the sentence today, Judge Martin Nolan said it had been a “particularly disturbing event” for the woman and it was “reprehensible” that McCarthy did not make candid admissions to the gardai at the time.

However, he took account of McCarthy’s guilty plea, his lack of any previous convictions and the fact that €2,000 in compensation had been accepted by the victim as a “token of remorse.”

The judge also ruled that that press was free to name McCarthy but not identify the victim.

Judge Nolan remarked that McCarthy had travelled to Australia to work after the incident but returned when he was told the gardai were “looking for him.” He noted McCarthy had been in custody since December 7 and over Christmas.

“The question I have to decide is does Mr McCarthy deserve a further period of custody,” the judge said. “It seems to me by reason of the good mitigation that that type of sentence is not necessary.”

He suspended the sentence on McCarthy entering a bond to be of good behaviour for two and a half years.

Anne Marie Lawlor BL, prosecuting, said there was “no bar” to the press identifying the accused.

McCarthy spoke only to say “yes” when the judge asked him to acknowledge his signature on the bond.

Previously, Garda Mary Brophy said the woman had gone to sleep in her bedroom at about 1.30am following the party and awoke later that night feeling "something weird."

McCarthy had his fingers in her vagina and was moving in to kiss her. She screamed and jumped out of bed.

Her sister came up to the room but found no one there. She went to another room and saw McCarthy there but suspected he was just pretending to be asleep.

He was later arrested and initially told gardai that he had tripped, landed on top of the victim and she had started screaming.

He had been released without charge following his garda interviews and a few months later had left to work abroad. As soon as he became aware he was to be charged, he returned home.

The woman outlined in her victim impact statement that her life had been changed for ever in a way she had no control over. She said the idea that the safest place you could be was at home in your own bed had been taken away from her.

Gda Brophy agreed with Ronan Kennedy BL, defending, that the incident had happened at about 4am and the accused had effectively been drinking all day.

She agreed that McCarthy had co-operated with gardai and that she had become aware during the interviews that he was "of limited intelligence."

Mr Kennedy said his client wished to make an unreserved apology and was deeply ashamed of himself.

Mr Kennedy said his client had little recollection of what happened and accepted the victim's account. He had entered an early guilty plea to acknowledge his wrongdoing and spare the woman the trauma of coming to court to relive what had happened.

McCarthy had been seeing a counsellor and was now on antidepressant medication.

Judge Nolan said it was “an uninvited assault” but accepted that the man was under the influence of alcohol.

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