Wednesday 19 September 2018

Former 'Fair City' actor jailed for six years for raping woman in his van

Predator: Garrett Phillips. Photo: Collins Courts
Predator: Garrett Phillips. Photo: Collins Courts

Aoife Nic Ardghail and Jessica Magee

A former 'Fair City' and 'Ros na Rún' actor has been sentenced to six years in prison for the "predatory" and "callous" rape of a young woman to whom he had given a lift home.

Garrett Phillips (46), of St Mary's Terrace, Taylor's Hill, Co Galway, was convicted of orally raping the then 20-year-old woman on the outskirts of Galway city in the early hours of November 5, 2015.

Phillips had been working as a Frank Sinatra impersonator in a UK stage show until recently and played Dr. Cathal Hennessy in the Irish soap.

He pleaded not guilty to the offence and had no previous convictions. Passing sentence at the Central Criminal Court, Ms Justice Eileen Creedon said there was a "predatory element" to what she described as the "callous rape" of a young woman.

"She was vulnerable, alone in a park late at night and visibly upset. He made her feel safe by offering his jacket, kind words and a lift home, but he never brought her home," the judge said.

Ms Justice Creedon said it was "an area of concern" that Phillips still did not accept full responsibility for the offence and believed it had been consensual.

The judge cited from the victim-impact statement read out in court previously, when the woman said she had been confident, happy and achieving well in her studies before the attack.

"My life was a train on a track in the right direction," the woman said. She was now a "changed person" and had failed to progress in university despite her best efforts, she said.

She is attending counselling, taking anti-depressants and no longer participates in sport, despite the central role it used to play in her life.

The woman said the court process, during which she had to sit inches away from her attacker, was one of the hardest things she had ever had to do. She said she was forced to speak about something painful and made to feel like a liar when giving evidence.

The judge said the headline sentence for the offence was eight years, but she took account of Phillips's clean record in setting a six-year sentence.

She noted that Phillips had lost his marriage and was out of work, and also that he had offered an apology to his family through his lawyer and also to the victim for the "emotional impact" on her.

A probation report placed him at a low risk of reoffending.

Detective Garda Evelyn Barrett told Paul Burns SC, prosecuting, that Phillips approached the woman as she sat alone and upset on a park bench and offered her a lift home.

The woman took the lift and during the journey she fell asleep. When she woke up, Phillips was no longer in the driver's seat but standing over her with his penis in her mouth. The detective said that the woman reacted strongly, got out of the van, memorised the registration and ran to a nearby house for help.

During the trial, the jury heard that Phillips claimed the encounter was consensual. He told gardaí that it had started off "very tender" and felt "chemical" between him and the woman.

Defence counsel Barry White SC said his client had not informed his wife about the matter until the evening before his trial.

Mr White submitted to Ms Justice Creedon that there had been "great difficulty" in getting Phillips to realise the gravity of matters and there was a lack of realisation on his part.

Irish Independent

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