Tuesday 20 March 2018

Man forced his way into home of woman with intellectual disability and carried out violent sexual assault


Declan Brennan and Sonya McLean

A Kerry man who forced his way into the home of an intellectually disabled woman and violently sexually assaulted her has been sentenced to 12 years.

His 58-year-old victim stated in a victim impact report that she is no longer able to live on her own. The attack left her with bruising and abrasions to her shoulder, chest, knees, ankle, her back right arm, buttock and with carpet burns on her back.

The 29-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court last November to aggravated sexual assault of the woman at a location in Kerry on July 29, 2011. He has no previous convictions.

The man had briefly met the woman earlier in a pub when she had gone there to buy cigarettes. Later on he went to her house and asked was there a party on. She told him there wasn’t and he went away.

He came back half an hour later and when she answered he forced his way in.

During the attack he called her a 'b***h' and a 'c***' and burned her face with a cigarette.

After he left the alarm was raised but the woman was too upset to allow for an internal examination and no internal forensic examination was taken.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt had remanded the man in custody after hearing evidence last April.

Today he suspended the last four years of the sentence on strict conditions including that he liaise with the Probation Service for two years upon his release from custody and stay away from the victim for 12 years.

Mr Justice Hunt said he wanted to express to the family his good wishes for the future and added that at least since this part of the procedure is over, it may help them move on.

The judge acknowledged that the man had saved the woman giving evidence before a jury and said that was the main mitigating factor in his case.

Mr Justice Hunt said the woman's loss of independence as a result of the attack was considerable, noting that she has not returned to her work or her home. He added that her entire family have been affected by this and said it has had a significant impact on all of them.

He noted from a probation report that there is some continued suggestion that there “was some sort of prior consensual sexual activity”. The judge said that this is not a conclusion he could come to, as there is no evidence of it.

Mr Justice Hunt described it as a very nasty offence carried out with considerable violence which was followed up by offensive claims that there had been a consensual relationship.

He acknowledged that the man has since exhibited remorse and expressed a want to engage in rehabilitation.

The court heard that the man was identified from DNA found on a memoriam card which gardai had spotted the victim clutching when they arrived at the scene. Brown stains on the card were tested and found to be faecal matter. A finger print retrieved from the radiator also matched the accused.

Superintendent Fearghal Pattwell told Colm O’Briain BL, prosecuting, during the sentence hearing last April, that the man was arrested in September 2011 and denied being in the house at the time.

The DNA evidence was put to him but he declined to comment on this.

The following December he made a voluntary statement to gardai claiming he had being in an ongoing consensual sexual relationship with the woman.

The woman vigorously denied this suggestion while being interviewed by Specialist Victim Interviewers. A Probation Services report before the court outlined that the man continues to claim the sexual activity was consensual.

James O’Mahoney SC, defending, said that his client was previously a respected and valued member of the community and had worked as a fisherman for many years.

He said he had problems with binge drinking. Counsel said his client was shocked and remorseful by his behaviour and had expressed desire to take responsibility for it.

A local man testified that the accused had worked for him and was a reliable worker. The defence also handed in a character reference from a local sporting association which was not read out in court.

Counsel said his client's family are devastated and shocked by his actions.

His guilty plea came after a jury had been sworn in for his trial for the rape and sexual assault of the woman. Before evidence was called the defence made a legal submission testing whether the victim was a person who required specialist victim interviewers.

During this legal argument the taped garda interviews with the woman were played to the court.

Mr Justice Hunt ruled that the interviews were admissible as evidence and the man entered a plea of guilty to the count of aggravated sexual assault.

In court last April, Supt Pattwell told Mr O’Briain BL that the woman was diagnosed as having mild intellectual disabilities. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager and is on a medication regime. She enjoyed socialising in the local pub even though she didn’t drink, the court heard.

A victim impact report, taken by the Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse centre, detailed that since the attack the victim feels unable to live on her own. She has lost her independence, the court heard.

The attack has had a devastating attack on her and her family and she feels frightened. She had difficulty swallowing after the attack as he held her throat during it.

The court heard that the victim cried during most of the time she was in the centre for the victim impact report and feels guilty about answering the door on the night.

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