Thursday 20 June 2019

Man who trespassed into prestigious girls' school and made 'sexual comments' to students jailed

(Stock image)
(Stock image)

Ralph Riegel

A man who trespassed into one of Ireland's most prestigious girls' secondary schools and then made "sexual and suggestive" comments to a shocked teenage girl near a toilet cubicle was jailed for ten months.

Tadhg Hopkins (40) was sentenced after pleading guilty before Judge Olan Kelleher at Cork District Court to two charges in relation to incidents at Scoil Mhuire on June 6 last, the opening day of the Leaving Certificate examinations.

Judge Kelleher was told that Hopkins of Nash's Boreen halting site, Fairhill, Cork had walked into a secure area of the fee-paying Cork school by following someone with a security pass card.

Once inside the school at Sidney Place on Wellington Road, he wandered around until he came to the girls toilet block.

A Leaving Cert student later said she got the fright of her life when, on emerging from a toilet cubicle, she saw a middle-aged man unzipping his trousers and chatting to her in a sexual way.

The court heard there was absolutely no suggestion that Hopkins had attempted to make any type of physical contact with anyone on the date in question.

The girl had prepared a victim impact statement for Judge Kelleher but had specifically requested that it not be read out in open court.

It was acknowledged that the incident had an impact on the girl who was sitting her first Leaving Cert exam that day.

"This young woman was starting her Leaving Cert," Judge Kelleher said.

"It is not what you would hope to deal with when doing a State examination. It (clearly) had such consequences for her."

"She did observe him (Hopkins) undoing his zip in front of her and she got the fright of her life."

Hopkins admitted that he trespassed at the school without reasonable excuse in such a manner as caused or was likely to cause fear in another person.

He also admitted that he intentionally engaged in offensive conduct of a sexual nature.

Judge Kelleher was told the Director of Public Prosecutions only agreed that the matter could be dealt with before the district court on the basis of a guilty plea.

Inspector Ronan Kennelly that Hopkins went into the school shortly after 1pm on June 6 after following a person inside who had used their valid security pass card.

The individual was apparently unaware that Hopkins was following closely behind them.

“He later spoke to two girls in an elevator," Inspector Kennelly said.

The conversation with the girls was both sexual and suggestive in nature.

One of the girls involved was preparing to start her Junior Cert examinations.

Later, Hopkins wandered to the girls toilet block.

A Leaving Cert student, on exiting a cubicle, was confronted by Hopkins who had opened his trousers and had his hand inside his pants.

The girl immediately left the toilet block and notified the school authorities.

Hopkins was then escorted off the school premises by staff members.

Gardaí were notified and complaints were investigated on foot of statements from the girls involved.

Hopkins had been remanded in custody for a week since he first entered his guilty plea.

Judge Kelleher was told Hopkins has a total of 101 previous convictions.

However, none involved any offence of a sexual nature.

A total of 13 of the 101 convictions were for various forms of assault.

Defence solicitor, Frank Buttimer, said his client was deeply sorry for what had happened.

He had believed the premises involved was a college rather than a secondary school.

The court heard that for years Hopkins has suffered from a serious alcohol problem.

Judge Kelleher noted the defendant's remorse and his guilty plea.

He sentenced him to 10 months in prison.

Hopkins was advised to seek help for his alcohol problem on his release.

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