Sunday 26 January 2020

Ex-Leinster rugby player guilty of sexually assaulting performer at Longitude festival

David Poff of Mayfield, Lower Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan. Convicted of sexual assault.
David Poff of Mayfield, Lower Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan. Convicted of sexual assault.
Andrew Phelan

Andrew Phelan

A FORMER Leinster rugby player has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a music festival performer by grabbing her bottom while whispering a lewd demand into her ear.

David Poff (20) drunkenly groped the woman’s buttocks from behind as she walked through a crowd and told her: “Give me your t**s.”

The victim, also in her 20s, broke down in tears as she gave evidence and told a court she had felt "violated".

Poff, who has played for Leinster u19 and u20 and with Old Wesley RFC, had denied he was responsible for the sex assault at Longitude in Marlay Park, Rathfarnham  on July 16, 2016.


However, the victim identified him in court and said there was “no doubt in her mind” that Poff was the culprit.

Judge Patricia McNamara adjourned sentencing at Tallaght District Court.

Poff, from Mayfield, Lower Kilmacud Road, Stllorgan, pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting the woman at Marlay Park, Grange Road, Rathfarnham, on July 16, 2016.

He was also found guilty of public drunkenness but not guilty of breaching the peace. He had denied all charges and did not give evidence in the case.

The victim told the court she and her friend got drinks and were walking around the festival to get their bearings before her performance.

The pair walked through the woods and back to a bridge, with a one-way system in place. She was chatting to her friend, who was one step ahead of her and to the right.

David Poff of Mayfield, Lower Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan. Convicted of sexual assault.
David Poff of Mayfield, Lower Kilmacud Road, Stillorgan. Convicted of sexual assault.

“We were having a nice time and then someone grabbed me from behind, grabbed my a**e. He had a really good hold of me. He leaned over me and said ‘give me your t**s’” she told the court.

“I pushed him away and said what are you at? Get your f***ing hands off me.”

She threw her drink - whiskey and ginger - on him and walked away. As she did so, he shouted “shut the f**k up, you fat bitch, you f**king slut.”

She saw a man in a high-vis jacket who she thought was a security guard but he was a steward looking after safety at the lake.

“I said to him, this guy is after grabbing me, he’s going around grabbing girls, you have to kick him out,” she told the court.

He could not leave his post and she said she then saw a garda and ran and told him what had happened.

The man who grabbed her was trying to walk “against the grain” of people and was “pretty much in the same area.” The garda told him to stay where he was and took the victim’s details.

She burst into tears and the garda told her he would call her later. She did not perform because she was too upset, and went home. She made a garda statement the next day.

The victim identified Poff who was sitting in court.

State solicitor Karen Wilson asked how she knew it was him, she said “when I turned around he still had a hold of me so there was no doubt who he was.”

Asked how she felt afterward, she said “I just got a fright, you know. Something like that has never happened to me before.”

In cross examination, defence solicitor Tom Honan put it to the victim that she had had an altercation with another man in a black t-shirt but it was not his client.

She replied that she was 100pc sure it was the accused.

The victim accepted that she had “lied” when she told the steward “he is going around grabbing girls” and told Mr Honan she said this because she was upset.

She said she thought the accused had been wearing shorts as well as a black t-shirt. She accepted there were “probably” a lot of men wearing black t-shirts and shorts that day but she just “knew about one.”

The judge rose for several minutes after the victim broke down and cried in the witness box.

“A very unpleasant incident may have occurred but it was not my client who was involved,” Mr Honan said.

“It definitely was,” she replied.

Mr Honan said she had told the gardai she felt bad after the incident.

“I felt violated,” she said.

She told Mr Honan that when she turned around, the man still had his fingers “between my a**e.” His hold on her was very firm, she said.

She said she heard some people on the other side of the bridge jeering and saying “oh, you are in trouble” but she did not know if they knew him or if they were “randomers.”

The victim’s friend told the court she did not see what happened but gave evidence of what she was told.

When she turned around, she saw the victim pushing a man away from her and saying “how dare you put your hands on me” before throwing her drink.

The victim told her the man had grabbed her from behind and said into her ear “give me your t**s now.”

They walked behind him while keeping their eyes on him, she said. The victim went to get the garda and “I stayed beside the man,” she said.

He did not seem to be too fazed by what happened, the witness said.

The witness also pointed out Poff in court.

In cross examination, she said the victim told her the man put his hand between her bum cheeks.

Mr Honan said this was “significantly different” to what she had said in her statement, which was that her friend told her the man put his hand “on her a**se.”

A volunteer steward, Jefferson Zacchaeus, said a woman approached him and said she had been “slapped on the ass” by a “blondy haired man”. She pointed in the direction of a man and Mr Zacchaeus stood with him for about five minutes.

Garda Sergeant Trevor Scanlon said the victim approached him in a distressed and angry state. He said she told him a man had “grabbed her a**e” and said “I just want your t**s.”

The man was standing 20 metres away and she pointed him out, Sgt Scanlon said. The accused gave gardai his name and address and produced his driving licence.

“I found him to be highly intoxicated,” Sgt Scanlon said. “He was falling into the railings, he barely knew where he was and what he was doing there.”

He said he arrested the defendant for his own safety and handcuffed him so he could be more easily controlled. He brought him to Rathfarnham Garda Station, where he was charged with public order offences and released. He urinated on himself and in the back of the garda van, Sgt Scanlon said.

He charged the accused with sexual assault on a later date. In cross-examination, he denied that Poff had asked to go to the toilet before leaving the festival.

Mr Honan asked the judge to dismiss the charges, pointing to the “inherent dangers” of convicting the accused in the context of a summer concert attended by up to 30,000 people, where there was no corroborative evidence.

He argued that the accused was not identified beyond reasonable doubt. Judge McNamara said she was satisfied the victim’s evidence had been clear and concise.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said “it has made me question my safety at gigs where I work as a performer.”

“It has made me a bit more aware of drunk lads when I perform at gigs,” she said in her statement. “I watch my back”.

She no longer performed at festivals and had lost income as a result.

The accused was a student and as a result of being charged, had lost income from training rugby and other teams, Mr Honan said. He had no previous convictions.

The judge adjourned the case to a date in September for the production of a pre-sentence probation report.

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