Friday 20 April 2018

Woman with intellectual disabilities 'unable to live on her own after violent sexual assault,' court hears

Her attacker pleaded guilty last November to aggravated sexual assault
Her attacker pleaded guilty last November to aggravated sexual assault

By Declan Brennan

A woman with intellectual disabilities has said she is no longer able to live on her own after a violent sexual assault in her home, a court has heard.

Her attacker, a Kerry native with no previous convictions, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court last November to aggravated sexual assault of the then 58-year-old woman at a location in Kerry on July 29, 2011.

The attack left her with bruising and abrasions to her shoulder, chest, knees, ankle, her back right arm, buttock and with carpet burns on her back.

The 29-year-old fisherman cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim. After ordering psychological assessments Mr Justice Tony Hunt remanded him in continuing custody for sentencing in July.

Superintendent Fearghal Pattwell told Colm O’Briain BL, prosecuting, that the woman was diagnosed as having mild intellectual disabilities. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager and is on a medication regime.

She was living in the family home until a few years before the attack when she applied for council housing so she could live independently. She began attending at a community centre and enjoyed socialising in the local pub even though she didn’t drink, the court heard.

A victim impact report, taken by the Kerry Rape and Sexual Abuse centre, detailed that since the attack the victim feels unable to live on her own. She has lost her position in the community centre and has lost her independence, the court heard.

The attack has had a devastating attack on her and her family and she feels frightened. She had difficulty swallowing after the attack as he held her throat during it.

The court heard that the victim cried during most of the time she was in the centre for the victim report and feels guilty about answering the door on the night.

Supt Pattwell said the man had briefly met the woman earlier in a pub when she had gone there to buy cigarettes. Later on he went back to her house and asked was there a party on. She told him there wasn’t and he went away.

He came back half an hour later and when she answered he forced his way in. He grabbed her throat and punched her in the head.

He banged her head off a door and a radiator before pushing her into her bedroom.

The man pulled her clothes off and had non-consensual sexual intercourse with her on the floor. During the attack he called her a bitch and a cunt and burned her face with a cigarette.

After he left the alarm was raised but the woman was too upset to allow for an internal examination and no internal forensic examination was taken.

The court heard that the man was identified from DNA found on a memoriam card which gardai had spotted the victim clutching when they arrived at the scene. Brown stains on the card were tested and found to be faecal matter. A finger print retrieved from the radiator also matched the accused.

The man was arrested in September 2011 and denied being in the house at the time. The DNA evidence was put to him but he declined to comment on this.

The following December he made a voluntary statement to gardai claiming he had being in an ongoing consensual sexual relationship with the woman.

The woman vigorously denied this suggestion while being interviewed by Garda Specialist Victim Interviewers. A Probation Services report before the court outlined that the man continues to claim the sexual activity was consensual.

James O’Mahoney SC, defending, said that his client was previously a respected and valued member of the community and had worked as a fisherman for many years.

He said he had problems with binge drinking. Counsel said his client was shocked and remorseful by his behaviour and had expressed desire to take responsibility for it.

A local fisherman testified that the man had worked for him and was a reliable worker. The defence also handed in a character reference from a local sporting association which was not read out in court.

Counsel said his client's family are devastated and shocked by his actions.

His guilty plea came after a jury had been sworn in for his trial for the rape and sexual assault of the woman. Before evidence was called the defence made a legal submission testing whether the victim was a person who required specialist victim interviewers.

During this voir dire hearing the taped garda interviews with the woman were played to the court. Mr Justice Hunt ruled that the interviews were admissible as evidence and the man entered a plea of guilty to the count of aggravated sexual assault.

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