Friday 19 January 2018

Son of former Galway lord mayor to be sentenced for aggravated sexual assault

Emer Connolly

A NURSE who was violently sexually assaulted by the son of a prominent Galway politician has told that a court she has become a "ghost" of her former self.

The woman was giving evidence in the Central Criminal Court at the sentence hearing of Brian Maher (25).

Maher of Clostoken, Loughrea, County Galway, had pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault and assault causing harm to the woman, in Bohermore, Galway City, on October 16, 2010.

Maher is the son of Fine Gael Councillor Michael Maher, who has just completed a term as the Lord Mayor of County Galway.

In her victim impact statement, the woman – who is now aged 38 – said it was “impossible to completely articulate” the impact Maher's actions have had on her and that she has suffered “physically and emotionally”.

“I will never forgive Brian Maher for hurting me and for causing my family so much pain and anguish,” she said.

She said that he had disregarded her “liberty, well-being, life and human rights” and she was now a “ghost” of her former self as a result of what she described as a “savage” assault.

“I've become a person I don't know any more. My life has changed forever,” she said.

She said that any sentence handed down “will never return me to the happy independent” woman she once was.

She has had to endure nightmares that her attacker will be released from prison and said she requires medication to sleep at night.

The woman sustained serious injuries in the attack, including a broken bone on her nose, a fractured cheekbone and a knocked out tooth.

“My nose and tooth are constant physical reminders of Brian Maher and what he did to me every time I look in the mirror,” she said.

“I used to be a very independent woman with no fear. Now I am scared to go anywhere after a certain hour on my own. I'm terrified of having anyone stand behind or close to me,” she added.

She said that since “the violation of my body”, her relationship with her fiancée has changed and socialising has become “impossible”.

“I'm constantly looking over my shoulder fearful of someone grabbing me like Brian Maher did. I'm a very jumpy and nervous person now,” she said.

She said it took her almost six months to return to work after the attack.

Detective Inspector Gerry Roche told the court that the victim was on her way home from a night out when she was attacked.

She took a taxi for part of the journey and then walked the remainder of the route. Maher grabbed her and pulled her into an alleyway. He banged her head off a wall and she fell to the ground.

Maher ripped then open her jeans and tried to rape her.

Local residents arrived after hearing the woman’s screams. Maher ran away but was caught a short time after a struggle with gardai.

Det Insp. Roche said that Maher initially denied the allegations, but made admissions during his fourth interview with gardaí and “came clean”.

Maher, the eldest of three children, is from a “well-known family” in Galway, the garda told the court. He was claiming job seekers allowance and worked occasionally at the time.

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC said his client is deeply apologetic for the hurt and distress he caused to his victim and read out an apology on his behalf to the court.

“I never went out that Friday night to hurt anybody. I hope some day you can find it in your heart to forgive me. . . I wish I could turn back time,” Maher wrote, addressing his victim.

Mr Grehan said the accused, who has no previous convictions, comes from a family “which has some legacy of public service and community activism”.

“She was simply the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no question that she was targeted,” said Mr Grehan.

He said the accused is willing to stay away from the victim and said he has undertaken a range of courses during his time in custody including a computer and addiction course.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy remanded him in custody until sentencing next Thursday.

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