Monday 21 January 2019

Man in violent sexual assault repeatedly failed to meet probation officer after his release

Sean Thackaberry who has been jailed for sexually assaulting Michelle in 2011
Sean Thackaberry who has been jailed for sexually assaulting Michelle in 2011
A shrine for Michelle at her home in Co Kildare

Isabel Hayes

A man who engaged in the violent sexual attack of a young woman who later took her own life has repeatedly failed to meet his probation officer since he was released from prison, a court has heard.

Sean Thackaberry (24) failed to meet his probation officer on 12 occasions and made a number of “unacceptable” excuses, including that he was on holidays in France and was viewing rental properties, the Central Criminal Court heard today.

He also moved to an address that was not approved by Probation Services as it was in close proximity to his victim's family, probation officer Dermot Lavin said.

The court heard that by moving addresses without notifying gardaí or Probation Services, Thackaberry was also in breach of the Sex Offenders Act.

Thackaberry, with an address in Church View, Suncroft, Co Kildare, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in November 2013, with the final two-and-a-half years suspended. He was released from Midlands Prison in June last year.

He appeared in court today for not complying with the conditions of his release.

A shrine for Michelle at her home in Co Kildare
A shrine for Michelle at her home in Co Kildare

Thackaberry entered a guilty plea at the Central Criminal Court to aggravated sexual assault which was acceptable to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The incident happened in Kildare town in the early hours of January 30, 2011.

Thackaberry, then aged 18, was walking Michelle Hennessey home when he threw her over a wall and subjected her to an aggravated sexual assault which lasted 20 minutes.

Ms Hennessy was rescued when passing gardaí heard her screams and gave chase to Thackaberry.

The court heard Ms Hennessy, who was 26 at the time, faced intimidation and bullying in connection with the attack in the months before she took her own life.

In court today, Mr Lavin told Karl Finnegan BL, prosecuting, that as part of his release conditions, Thackaberry was required to attend probation services meetings and inform them of any change of address.

Thackaberry met Mr Lavin on a few occasions upon his release from prison last June before he stopped turning up to meetings. “He made himself unavailable and he made a number of unacceptable excuses,” Mr Lavin said.

As well as saying he was in France and viewing rental properties, Thackaberry said he was in Dublin on one occasion and twice said he could not make a meeting as he was having surgery for appendicitis. This was never verified by any medical notes or records, Mr Lavin said.

Mr Lavin said Thackaberry also moved out of his parents' home, which was his approved post-release address, shortly after his release. He lived in Dublin for a while before moving to his grandmother's home.

This home was deemed unsuitable by Probation Services as it was close to Ms Hennessy's family and also because Thackaberry's grandmother was deemed “ill-equipped to manage him”, Mr Lavin said.

The court heard Thackaberry was recently jailed for three months for an assault he committed in custody while serving his sentence. He is still in custody.

Michael Bowman SC, defending Thackaberry, said his client's non-attendance at Probation services meetings was a “significant issue”, but he submitted Thackaberry had contacted his probation officer and explained his reasons on most occasions.

He said Thackaberry was now on a methadone programme in custody and was detoxing. He urged Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy to consider reactivating only part of Thackaberry's suspended sentence, saying he would need further supervision in the community upon his eventual release.

Thackaberry's father, Stephen Thackaberry, took the stand and said he was willing to give his son one last chance to stay with him and his mother when he was released.

“I'd like to see him home,” Mr Thackaberry said, adding he had received offers of work for his son. However, he said it was ultimately up to his son.

“If he wants to end up behind bars for the rest of his life, that's up to him,” he said.

Mr Justice McCarthy remanded Thackaberry in continuing custody until March 5 to allow for a number of reports to compiled. He said he would then consider whether to impose all or some of the suspended portion of Thackaberry's sentence.

He noted Thackaberry had received a “low” sentence, given the seriousness of the crime and had been given “every opportunity”. He said he was concerned by the probation officer's report, especially given Thackaberry's history.

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