Garda avoids jail in appeal over sexual assault on his colleague
A GARDA sergeant has been fined but spared a jail term after an appeal court upheld his conviction for sexually assaulting a female colleague while on duty at a Dublin station three years ago.
Father-of-two Sergeant Martin Woods (50), whose 29-year career as a garda has been left in ruins, avoided a prison sentence but was told he must pay a €1,000 fine within four months otherwise he could be jailed for 30 days in default.
A judge heard that he pushed his pelvic region against the woman's behind, grabbed her hips and began gyrating while saying, "she likes it this way".
He had been originally convicted at Dublin District Court last year and got two fines of €1,000 in relation to two counts of sexually assaulting the young woman, while on duty at a station on dates in March and June 2010.
Woods, who had pleaded not guilty, brought an appeal to the Circuit Court in Dublin aimed at having both convictions overturned but succeeded in relation to one count only where it was alleged he touched the officer's breast while telling her "wake up there" in June 2010.
Following the two-day appeal, Judge Sarah Berkeley yesterday found him guilty of the second charge, which related to an incident in March 2010.
In evidence, the female officer said that she felt uncomfortable around the sergeant as a result of comments he had made previously. She said that once, when officers were asked if they would work at the Dublin Horse Show, Woods had said her: "Do you want to go to that? You are good at riding."
She alleged that on a date in March 2010, she went into a room in the station to use a computer. She had leaned over a desk in a small space between two other officers and Woods then came in to use radio equipment.
The woman alleged that the sergeant "pushed himself up against my behind, put his hands on my waist and started gyrating". She also claimed that while he did that he said, "she likes it this way".
She told State solicitor Domhnall Forde that it lasted a few seconds but it made her feel "dirty, vulnerable, unsafe".
Afterwards she went straight to the toilets and cried before going back to work. She began to ring in sick because she did not want to be left alone with the sergeant, she said.
She said she did not have the strength to report it at the time.
"I lost interest in my work, did not want to be a guard any more," the officer also said.
Two other officers witnessed the incident and one said that their colleague looked mortified as the sergeant pushed his groin against her buttocks, laughed and gained momentum.
However, they agreed that they did not report the incident.