Sunday 19 November 2017

Man who sexually assaulted teen (16) and left her unconscious on footpath has jail term cut

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

A man who told a 16-year-old girl to drink alcohol or he would kill her, before sexually assaulting her, leaving her unconscious and in a state of undress on a footpath, has had his jail term cut on appeal.

The 22-year-old man, a member of the Roma community and who cannot be identified to protect the victim's identity, had pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to one count of sexual assault committed in the county on April 29, 2014.

He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with the final year suspended by Judge Gerard O'Brien on July 7, 2016.

The man had his jail term cut by one year today with the Court of Appeal expressing disquiet that the payment of €10,000 compensation, a token of the man's remorse, was not mentioned by the Circuit Court judge at sentencing.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the victim had arranged to meet the man, her former boyfriend, on the date in question. He picked her up close to her home and he was accompanied by another man not known to the victim.

Eventually they went to a particular location. The man got into the back seat and told the victim to drink a bottle of alcohol or else he would kill her or dump her out of the car and leave her there.

He then attempted to have sex with her on numerous occasions but didn't succeed. The other male also attempted sex.

Later, the man pulled her out of the car and left her unconscious on the footpath in a state of undress. The car then drove off at speed. She was found by members of the public in a hysterical state.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the 22-year-old man was a member of the Roma community. He was married, it was an “arranged marriage” and he had a child.

He had 29 previous convictions including six for theft, one for burglary and three for public order. None were directly relevant.

Counsel for the man, Ronan Munro SC, submitted that the judge erred in failing to resolve a factual conflict but the Court of Appeal dismissed this ground.

Secondly Mr Munro said the judge erred by referring to touching of the vagina and attempts at digital penetration in the absence of any evidence.

But Mr Justice Birmingham said it was not a point of substance. There were repeated attempts at intercourse and it was an “inescapable conclusion” that the incident involved contact with her vagina area.

Finally, it was submitted that the sentencing judge did not refer specifically to the question of compensation.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the payment of €10,000 by way of compensation was a significant matter. The money paid was a substantial sum and the information before the court would indicate that the man and his family were not persons of means. Raising the sum offered, which was accepted, could not have been easy for them, the judge said.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court was left with some disquiet that the there was no mention of it by the sentencing judge.

It was not clear what impact the payment of compensation, as a token of remorse, actually had on the sentence.

He said the court was prepared to address the balance of the sentence in a limited way.

The Court of Appeal left the sentence of seven years in place but suspended the final two years rather than one. This meant that when he is released, the man will have a significant suspended sentence hanging over him, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

In addition the court made specific provision for 12 months post release supervision.

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