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€2,000 fine and job at risk for sex assault sergeant

The fate of a garda sergeant, convicted of sexually assaulting two women officers, is now in the hands of the Garda Commissioner.

Sgt Martin Woods (49) was spared a custodial sentence and fined €2,000 yesterday after being found guilty of groping a female colleague twice at a Dublin garda station.

Woods, who had an "unblemished record" in his 28-year career, could now face the sack and lose his pension.

He was convicted at Dublin District Court on two counts of sexually assaulting the young woman, on dates in March and June 2010. He had already been fined €1,000 earlier this week for a separate sexual assault on another female colleague.

The woman described how the first incident happened when she was leaning over to use a computer. The sergeant stood behind her, then put his arms around her waist and pushed his pelvic area against her bottom and said "she likes it this way".

"I froze, I then just walked out," she had said adding that she felt embarrassed and dirty, and "terrified of him".

She also said that on a date in June 2010 she had been on duty reading files and going through paperwork.

"He came over and put his hand to my left breast and said 'wake up there'," she said, "I replied 'I am not asleep'."

Two of her colleagues, who were present during the first incident, told Judge Bridget Reilly they were shocked by the sergeant's actions.

One said the sergeant was pushing his lower groin area into the woman's bottom and "was gaining momentum as he was doing it". It lasted 10 or 15 seconds and afterwards the female garda was mortified and upset, the witness had said.

Another garda also saw the assault happen and said the sergeant "thrust his mid-section to groin area against her hip/bottom area and said something along the lines of 'do you like it like that?'".

In evidence, the 49-year-old sergeant had denied sexually assaulting the woman and claimed he had been trying to get past her.

"I placed my hands on her hips to move her slightly so I could get past her. In squeezing past her, my groin area came into contact with her buttock," he had told the court. He said it was an "awkward moment" and "to try and lighten it I made a comment 'do you like that?'".

Deliberate

He described the contact between him and his colleague as accidental.

He claimed that during the second incident he had been tidying an office in the station. He thought the victim was asleep or in deep contemplation and he tapped her on her rib-cage, "to wake her out of her position, to make her more alert".

Judge Reilly held that the touching was deliberate and found him guilty on both counts.

She said what he had done was a breach of trust and revolting. "If anyone cannot understand that, they might ponder the question -- what might you say if your daughter came home and said this is what my superior did to me today," she said.

The judge said she was mindful of the "very serious consequences that would be visited on the defendant and his career and reputation".

Fining him €1,000 on each count, Judge Reilly said the offences were at the lower end of the scale and did not justify a custodial sentence.

Irish Independent