Tuesday 26 September 2017

Sailor not guilty of sex attack on female colleague

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A JUDGE issued a stark warning about workplace behaviour as he acquitted a young Naval Service sailor of sexually assaulting a female colleague.

The woman had claimed that the young man first asked her for oral sex, then slapped her backside before twice grabbing her by the breasts.

The incident was alleged to have occurred as both individuals, who held similar ranks, were working on a patrol vessel.

The woman, who was very upset after the not guilty verdict, claimed that women in the Navy were made to feel like "traitors" if they reported any sexually offensive behaviour.

"It is all about the boys," she said.

Both the defendant and the complainant cannot be identified for legal reasons.

The man had vehemently denied the sexual assault claim and insisted that what happened in June 2012 was harmless banter and horseplay.

Judge Brian Sheridan warned Midleton District Court that workmates must be extremely careful about their behaviour.

"It clearly highlights the importance of all people in the workplace being very aware of their behaviour," he said.

He dismissed the single charge as he said that while there clearly had been an assault, he had a doubt about any sexual intent being involved.

The judge also stressed that there were "no winners or losers" in the case and that everyone should leave the matter behind them in the courtroom.

'HORSEPLAY'

Another female sailor, who witnessed one of the incidents, described it as "horseplay".

"There was nothing malicious or sexual. It was horseplay, it was banter," she said.

The witness also said the defendant had done something similar to her but she had kicked him and told him to "f*** off".

There were no witnesses to the other elements of the charge. However, several navy witnesses told the court that the complainant was very upset in the hours after the alleged incident.

The complainant told the court she had "major concerns" about the treatment of women in the Navy and that making such a complaint in a military organisation was frowned upon.

"You are seen as a traitor for 'rocking the boat' and going against the lads. It is all about the boys."

She added: "I am not the only one and I most certainly won't be the last. I felt degraded, humiliated and disgusted by what happened."

Irish Independent

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