Wednesday 17 July 2019

Dad who sexually assaulted childcare worker while dropping son at creche gets suspended sentence

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Tom Tuite

A father who sexually assaulted a childcare worker while he was dropping his son off at a creche in Dublin has been given a three-month suspended sentence.

The victim was left traumatised and quit her job afterwards, the court was told. The 30-year-old married man had pleaded not guilty to the sexual assault on a date last year.

In evidence, the woman agreed with state solicitor Michelle Sheeran that it happened when she was pushing a trolley to the kitchen.

She saw the accused arrive with his young son and told him she could not take the boy to his class, because she had to get meals ready for the children. As the man walked past with his son he sexually assaulted her.

“I felt his hand going across my chest area. I froze,” she said. There was plenty of space for him go around her and the trolley, she said.

Giving evidence via video-link she said she could not believe it happened.

In his statement to gardaí, the man said he had put his left hand out as he went past her and made contact with her shirt, and her shirt only. He was not looking in her direction as he walked on, defence solicitor Mark O'Sullivan told the court.

She agreed contact lasted one or two seconds, but added: “I could feel a hand across my chest”.

The solicitor referred to the accused’s statement, in which he told gardai that he put his hand out as a “Thank you gesture” for letting him walk by her and the trolley.

She said that was not true and there was plenty of room to walk around her.

She added that she felt very uncomfortable and in all her time in childcare there had never been any contact like that with a parent.

The solicitor suggested that it could have been a mistake or an accident. “No, definitely not a mistake,” she said. She also said she did not understand how it could have been a gesture.

Asked about the man's claim that she smiled at him, she said: “No, I froze on the spot. I literally froze, thinking, 'What just happened?'”.

“I didn’t think it was a very good example with his son present, I felt very uncomfortable. I thought it was not right to do it in front of the child at his creche.”

She did not recall him saying anything to her after she told him she would not be able to bring his son into his room.

CCTV footage from the creche was shown to the court. It showed a door open with the man standing there holding his son's hand, to his right. He walked past and his left hand reached out to the creche worker's chest area as he passed her.

Mr O’Sullivan asked Dublin District Court to note his client did not look as he walked by the woman and he claimed he put his hand out to thank her.

Ms Sheeran asked Judge John Hughes to consider the victim’s testimony as well as the video evidence. She argued that in civil society it was not acceptable to say thank you and put your hand on a lady’s breast.

Judge Hughes found the man guilty. He was told he had one prior conviction for theft, for which he received an 18-month suspended sentence in 2015.

Mr O’Sullivan asked the court to note his client was a construction worker earning about €400 a week. He asked the judge to take into account that the offence was not at the serious end of the scale and that the defence had consented to the woman giving evidence via video-link.

The childcare worker's victim impact statement detailed how she suffered from anxiety afterwards and had to leave her job. She was crying and could not eat.

It affected her relationship with her family and her partner. She isolated herself from her friends and did not leave her home, she said.

“I found myself wearing extra clothing, I just wanted to cover up," she said.

The judge said the sexual assault was at the lower to middle end of the scale.

He suspended the three-month sentence on condition the accused did not re-offend within the next year.

He told the accused, who did not address the court, to pay €1,000 compensation before December 1 and remain supervised by the Probation Service for the next 12 months. He would have to complete the appropriate rehabilitation recommended and was warned not to contact the victim.

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