Sunday 25 August 2019

Garda who sexually assaulted sleeping woman loses sentence appeal

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A disgraced ex-garda who sexually assaulted a sleeping woman after a charity event has lost an appeal against the severity of his two year prison sentence.

The 37-year-old married father of children, who has since been dismissed from An Garda Síochána, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the woman at a Mayo hotel, in July 2015.

Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court heard that the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had gotten into the sleeping woman’s bed and was discovered by her husband with his trousers down.

He initially pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea to guilty at a late stage of his trial, after the victim was cross examined by his lawyers.

Sentencing him to two years imprisonment, Judge Rory McCabe described the attack as “an opportunist and repellent sexual assault on a sleeping female”.

The man lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence today with the Court of Appeal holding that the discount afforded for the man’s mitigating factors was appropriate and may even have been “generous”.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Ms Justice Marie Baker said the then serving garda and the victim were part of a charity group staying at the hotel, after a fundraising event earlier that day.

Dinner and drinks were had in the hotel bar and the victim went to bed sometime after midnight.

The then garda subsequently left, apparently to go to the toilet, but when he failed to return, others in the group went to find him.

The victim’s husband tried to get into their bedroom but the door was locked. He entered through another door and found the man in bed with his wife, with his trousers down and his penis visible.

The victim was asleep during the event and her evidence was that the accused had woken her.

Ms Justice Baker said the man had been a garda since 2007 and had been awarded the Scott Medal for bravery after rescuing a drowning child.

After he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty, he was served with a notice of dismissal from An Garda Síochána.

The sentencing judge fixed four years as the headline sentence and applied a 50pc reduction for the mitigating factors, namely, the man’s previous good character, good family life, expressions of remorse and low risk of reoffending.

However, a probation report prepared before he was sentenced noted that the man continued to claim the incident was consensual.

Ms Justice Baker said the victim described the degrading nature of the crime, and feelings of intense vulnerability.

She described the trial process as being traumatic and invasive, and gave a similar description of an investigation by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

Ms Justice Baker said the 50pc reduction from the headline sentence was appropriate and may even be “generous”.

She said the gravity of the offence warranted some custodial element - it was a serious offence and the guilty plea was entered late - and the judge was entitled to not suspend any part of the sentence.

Ms Justice Baker, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court was unable to identify any error in principle and the appeal was therefore dismissed.

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