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Judge's concern after girl (17) placed in small ward with three older men

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Guilty: Andrew O’Donovan had ‘schizophrenic tendencies’. Picture: Michael MacSweeney

Guilty: Andrew O’Donovan had ‘schizophrenic tendencies’. Picture: Michael MacSweeney

Guilty: Andrew O’Donovan had ‘schizophrenic tendencies’. Picture: Michael MacSweeney

A man with a long history of psychiatric problems sexually assaulted a teenage girl who had been placed in an adult ward directly behind him.

Medical staff only became alerted to Andrew O’Donovan’s assault on the 17-year-old when they noticed his heart monitor showing elevated cardiac activity.

The teen has now called for the patient admission age for paediatric units in acute Irish hospitals to be raised from 16 to 18 years.

“My mental health has been shattered by this,” the girl told a court in a harrowing victim impact statement.

“I was petrified and helpless. I thought I would be safe in hospital.

“I never thought I would be in any danger.”

Judge Sean O Donnabhain queried how O’Donovan (63) could ever have been placed alongside the girl in a four-

patient ward at Cork University Hospital (CUH).

“You have to question the management of the ward system at CUH that allowed a young girl to be placed in close proximity to a man who was known to have a history of schizophrenic tendencies and a long psychiatric history,”  said the judge. Judge O Donnabhain warned it was “a very, very troubling case”.

The teenager, who cannot be identified by court order, was in hospital having been involved in an accident which left her with life-threatening injuries two years ago.

But she was admitted to the adult ward where O’Donovan was also a patient.

She was unable to reach the emergency call button overhead as O’Donovan began sexually assaulting her as she lay in bed on May 14, 2018.

O'Donovan, of Butler's Gift, Drimoleague, Cork, received an 18-month suspended prison sentence after he admitted sexually assaulting the girl at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

When initially confronted about the sexual assault complaint from the teen, O'Donovan claimed he was just attempting to shake hands with the girl to wish her well.

He was not in court for the sentencing hearing - he attended court in the morning but then inexplicably left before his case was heard.

The judge said the hospital management and supervision involved had to be queried - and warned that the hospital management needed to "buck up".

He queried how the teenage girl could ever have been placed in a four-bed ward with three older men.

O'Donovan was charged before Cork District Court last June with sexually assaulting the 17-year-old in Cork University Hospital on 14 May, 2018.

Detective Garda Caroline Keogh of the Cork Protective Services Unit gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution.

She said the man initially denied the charge put to him, replying: "I did nothing to that girl, I just shook her hand."

However, he pleaded guilty to a sexual assault charge when the case came before the Circuit Criminal Court last November.

Det Garda Keogh said the young girl awoke at 5am to discover O'Donovan standing by her hospital bed.

O'Donovan queried her name before asking if she would like to go for a drink or the cinema.

After examining her hospital name bracelet, he then began stroking her arm before sexually assaulting her.

When he stopped, he said to her: "Promise me you will write to me?"

O'Donovan's heart monitor displayed elevated cardiac activity and a nurse came to investigate minutes after the assault commenced.

The nurse thought O'Donovan might be having a heart attack. She was then able to raise the alarm.

The victim of the attack said the incident had left her very afraid of older men.

She was also unable to sleep, traumatised and suffering panic attacks.

The girl said her studies had also been affected and she had not been able to undertake the university course of her choice.

But she added that the defendant's guilty plea had been a relief - and it had vindicated her account of the incident.

Judge O'Donnabhain was told the defendant had a long history of mental health issues and his wife had only died last year.

The court heard he had no previous convictions and currently lives a very simple life in west Cork, largely keeping to himself and tending his animals.

The judge imposed an 18-month suspended sentence.

Irish Independent