Man who sexually assaulted 'almost unconscious' woman at festival jailed
A man who sexually assaulted a “seriously drunk” and “almost unconscious” woman at a festival has been jailed for ten months.
Steven Hennessy (38), who was also highly intoxicated, was observed by a nearby group to be putting his hand inside the trousers of the woman who “looked like she was about to pass out.”
The victim, who is entitled to anonymity, only became aware of what had happened when she woke up in a medical hut and found out a man had been arrested for sexually assaulting her.
Hennessy, formerly of Hollybank Road, Drumcondra, Dublin and originally from Carlow, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual assault of the woman at a location in Dublin in September 2016. Hennessy has no previous convictions.
Today Judge Martin Nolan noted the victim was “seriously drunk and in an almost unconscious state.” He said Hennessy had put his hand under her clothes by her vaginal area.
He noted that Hennessy was also “severely intoxicated” and was not fit to be interviewed by gardai until the following day. He said this did not help Hennessy and commented that people were responsible for their acts, drunk or not.
Judge Nolan noted it could be said Hennessy had “almost perfect mitigation.” He outlined his co-operation and admissions, followed up by a guilty plea and expression of “true remorse.”
He said Hennessy had a good work record and had lost his job as a result of his behaviour. He noted Hennessy had brought a substantial sum of money to court as a token of remorse and was unlikely to re-offend.
Judge Nolan said he had to decide if he deserved an immediate custodial sentence despite this.
He said the general principle was that a custodial sentence was always mandated in such cases unless there were “exceptional circumstances.” He said he did not find such circumstances in this case. He said “exceptional circumstances” might include “extreme youth or something like that”.
The judge said Hennessy was a mature man when he committed the offence. He accepted that he would probably not have committed the offence except for his intoxicated state, but noted “inebriation and intoxication affords no defence.”
Judge Nolan imposed a sentence of two years imprisonment and said by reason of the mitigation he was going to suspend the final 14 months on strict conditions.
He said, in relation to the €10,000 brought to court by Hennessy, that as he was not disposed to impose a non custodial sentence, he was not going to deal with the issue of compensation or financial penalty. He said that was a matter for the civil courts.
Judge Nolan said the offence had been a “reprehensible act” despite the excellent mitigation.
Detective Garda Adrian Buckley told Diarmuid Collins BL, prosecuting, that the victim did not really remember anything until she woke up in a medical hut and found out that a man had been arrested for sexually assaulting her. She was unsure how she ended up on her own.
She was shocked and embarrassed and had no recollection of anyone being intimate with her.
Det Gda Buckley said earlier in the evening a group of friends had observed two people sitting opposite them. The accused man was sweaty and his “pupils were out of his head.” He had his arm around a girl who was swaying and “looked like she was about to pass out.”
They saw the man put his hand down the girl's pants and saw what they believed to be a penetrating action with his hand moving in and out. One of the group went over to Hennessy and told him this was completely inappropriate. He asked Hennessy where the girl's friends were.
Security staff were alerted and found the girl in an unresponsive state. Hennessy told security staff he had “just wanted to feel her down there.” He was arrested but was unfit to be interviewed.
Hennessy made full admissions during garda interview. He asserted that she had been awake but accepted he should have asked her if she consented. He said it had been “stupid drunken bravery.”
Hennessy said he was “100pc sorry” and told gardai it was not like him at all.
The injured party did not wish to make a victim impact statement.
Tony McGillicuddy BL, defending, said Hennessy had brought to court €10,000 token of remorse as compensation for the woman without prejudice to her rights to take other legal recourse.
He submitted in mitigation that Hennessy had made full admissions, followed by an early guilty plea. He has no record of offending and has a good and solid family background.
Mr McGillicuddy said Hennessy, who has degree in business and French and a stock broking diploma, had an excellent work history but had recently lost his job. He said his client's job prospects were poor at the present time.
He said a psychologist's report outlined that Hennessy did not have a hostile attitude to women and was suffering from mild depression. He said there was a risk factor identified in relation to alcohol which Hennessy would have to deal with. He was attending counselling.
Counsel said Hennessy was identified as at low to medium risk of sexual re-offending in the report which also outlined that he realised the wrong he had done.
Mr McGillicuddy said Hennessy had a long way back to put his life back together. He asked the court not to impose a custodial sentence but to deal with it in some other manner.