Thursday 14 November 2019

Retired garda denies sexual assault of young hairdresser, High Court hears

Incident allegedly occurred in his patrol car

Retired Garda Thomas Noonan
Retired Garda Thomas Noonan

A retired garda denies sexually assaulting a young hairdresser after giving her a lift in his patrol car 14 years ago, the High Court heard.

Antoinette Canty (33), of the Causeway, Tralee, Co Kerry, is suing former Garda Thomas Noonan (60), the Minister for Justice, and the State, over the alleged assault and false imprisonment in the car in Listowel, Co Kerry, on the eve of St Patrick's Day, 2001.

The defendants deny the claims.  Mr Noonan, who was based in Listowel for 21 years, is representing himself.

The court heard there was a garda investigation into the matter and the DPP decided not to prosecute.

Ms Canty is seeking damages for psychological trauma, distress and upset.

The case began before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O'Neill in November 2010 and was adjourned several times before it resumed this week.

Ms Canty told the court previously Garda Noonan gave her a lift in his patrol car after she came out of a nightclub in Listowel and after driving past her family  home, he put his hand on her upper thigh and attempted to "get on her".

She claimed she kicked him to get him off her and she believed he was going to rape or kill her.

She said he put his hand on her upper thigh and she started screaming and shouting before kicking the steering wheel and indicator stalk.

She also said she was unable to get out of the car because he had locked the door.

Yesterday, Mr Noonan told the court that when asked by a senior officer who was investigating the alleged incident if he "had put his hand on a girl's leg" in the patrol car, he replied: "I did not".

He said he first saw Ms Canty outside a nightclub in Listowel earlier in the night and while she had drink taken, she was not causing any problem.

He came across her again after she had locked herself in a van whose owner wanted her out of it.   She left the van when requested to do so.

He came across her for a third time around 3am after speaking to a cab driver and another man outside a chip shop in the town.  He went inside and asked her to leave at the request of the chipper proprietor.

He told her he would drive her down to the town square, which was a short distance away, where she could get a cab.  There were no cabs and he told her they would go back to the garda station where she could organise a lift home.

He pulled up outside the electronically controlled gates at the rear of the station and got out to enter the code to open them.  As he did so, he heard a noise from the car and assumed she had kicked something or other.

While he had a remote key for the car, it only operated intermittently, and he had to open to door with the key to talk to her.

He said he told he there was "no need to be worried, this is a garda station, you are not arrested and we are only taking you in and somebody is going to collect you to take you home."

As he went back to open the gate, he heard a slam and looked around to see her getting out of the car and she said "I'm not going into any cop shop".   He said she then ran, though "not terribly quickly" down towards a nearby supermarket.

He decided he was not going to follow her though he did keep an eye out for her around the town during the rest of his tour of duty. 

He also discovered the indicator stalk was broken and there was a footprint on the windscreen inside the car.

He said when he was later interviewed by a senior officers about the matter, they refused to say whether it was a criminal or internal disciplinary matter.  An inspector eventually asked him did he put his hand on a girl's leg and he denied it.

Mr Noonan's daughter, Aisling, earlier told the court she had heard her father coming and going when he came home for his meal break between 3.40 and 4.40am.   She said she had not given this evidence to any previous inquiries on the matter because she had not been asked.

The hearing continues.

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