Wednesday 12 December 2018

Garda jailed for sexually assaulting woman while she slept

Stock picture
Stock picture

Tom Shiel

A serving member of An Garda Siochana was sentenced today to two years in prison for what a judge described as “an opportunist and repellent sexual assault on a sleeping female”.

Imposing sentence at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Rory MacCabe described the fact that the defendant will lose his job as a significant penalty but added “people have to accept the natural consequences of their actions.”

The judge refused a request by defence counsel, Ken Fogarty, for a suspended prison term.

Earlier Mr Fogarty told Judge MacCabe that the defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has already been served with dismissal papers by the Garda Commissioner.

The defendant who has served in both metropolitan and rural areas was decorated for bravery Mr Fogarty explained.

Earlier this year, the defendant, a married man with children, went on trial at the Circuit Criminal Court charged with sexually assaulting a woman after getting into her bed in a hotel room in the west of Ireland.

As the trial was about enter its final stages, the accused changed his plea to guilt on a single count of sexual assault contrary to Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1990.

At the previous hearing, evidence was heard that the accused is known to the complainant and travelled with her, as part of an eight-strong group to a charity event in a west of Ireland town in July 2015.

The victim was the only female present.

The group then stayed overnight in an apartment which forms part of a local hotel complex.

The victim told the court the group had enjoyed drinks and played card games as the evening wore on.

She said that she had put on her pajamas and retired to the double bed she was later to share with her husband.

The female gave evidence that she was awakened from sleep by a man who was molesting her.

The victim then explained that as a bedside locker light was switched on by her husband her attacker got out of bed with his trousers down.

She gave evidence she was highly distressed afterwards and was comforted and cuddled by her husband.

The court heard that on the following day the victim and her husband got a Facebook message from the accused in which he apologised to both of them for what had happened.

In the message, the accused claimed not to remember much about what had happened.

He added: "Unfortunately, loads of beer and Captain Morgan's (rum) do not fit well with me."

The message continued: "I can only guess that in my drunken stupor I went to the wrong bed."

In an emotional and lengthy victim impact statement which she read to today's sentencing hearing, the victim said being betrayed by a person she then regarded as a friend while in that most vulnerable state - sleeping - left her sick to the very core.

She spoke of her initial difficulties in reporting the incident.

“Who would take my word above that of a garda who is supposed to be a pillar of the community and above the law?”

All her emotional torment could have been avoided in 2015 if he had pleaded guilty then, the victim added.

Continuing her impact statement, she said she had embarked on self-harm. “I hated my body for not waking sooner”, she explained.

The victim ended her statement by saying: “I am branded by the actions of another and I will carry this with me forever.

“Not a day goes by that it does not affect me. It set me on a completely different course than the one I had taken”.

Richard Gaughan of the Garda Ombudsman Commission, which investigated the complaint, told today's court the victim had left the others, changed into her pyjamas, and gone to bed.

The defendant had got up to go to the toilet and was gone for some time when his absence was noticed.

Mr Gaughan said the woman's husband ordered the defendant from the room after finding him in bed. The victim was 'dazed' at the time.

Defence counsel Mr Fogarty said his client had made a drunken decision on the night in the apartment and had asked him to convey to the victims his profound sorrow and remorse for what happened.

When asked by Mr Fogarty to suspend the prison sentence, the judge said there was no reason to suspend because the defendant is not viewed as an ongoing risk.

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