| 16.2°C Dublin

Garda sergeant spared jail over sexual assault

A GARDA sergeant has been fined but spared a jail term after an appeal court upheld his conviction for sexually assaulting a female colleague.

Father-of-two Martin Woods (50), whose 29-year career as a garda has been left in ruins, was told he must pay a €1,000 fine within four months, otherwise he could be jailed for 30 days in default.

A judge heard that he pushed his pelvic region against the woman's behind, grabbed her hips and began gyrating while saying, "She likes it this way".

He was convicted at Dublin District Court last year, and was fined €1,000 on two counts of sexually assaulting the young woman, while on duty at a station on dates in March and June 2010.

Woods brought an appeal to the Circuit Court in Dublin aimed at having both convictions overturned but succeeded in relation to one count only, where it was alleged he touched the officer's breast while telling her "Wake up there".

Judge Sarah Berkeley yesterday found him guilty of the second charge, which related to an incident in March 2010.

The female officer alleged that she had leaned over a desk in a small space between two other officers.

The woman alleged that the sergeant "pushed himself up against my behind, put his hands on my waist and started gyrating". She also claimed that while he did that he said "She likes it this way".

She told State solicitor Domhnall Forde that it lasted a few seconds but it made her feel "dirty, vulnerable, unsafe".

She said she did not have the strength to report it at the time. "A number of things were going through my head: someone would not believe me or I brought it on myself," she explained.

INCIDENT

"I lost interest in my work, did not want to be a guard any more," the officer also said.

Two other officers witnessed the incident. One said that their colleague looked mortified as the sergeant pushed his groin against her buttocks, laughed and gained momentum.

Woods told the appeal court that the he had gone into the room because he needed to use a radio to contact a garda car and as he turned around he accidentally bumped into the woman and lost his balance.

It happened "in a flash", he put his hands on her hips to steady himself. As he left he said, "Did you like that?" as "a flippant, throwaway comment".

He now felt embarrassed about the remark but said that at the time it was made "to lighten the moment, to take the awkwardness out of it".

He denied that he had been "gyrating" against her.

The defence barrister argued that there was no evidence of intent to commit an indecent assault and that Woods's conduct did not come into the sphere of criminal offending.

However, Judge Berkeley upheld the original conviction in relation to that incident.

During the hearing, the court heard that Woods became a garda in January 1984, after which he worked in several stations and was promoted to the rank of sergeant 11 years later.

He described himself as a "hard task-master" who regularly reviewed the work of his subordinates and tried pass on his experience to help them to become better gardai.

DEFAULT

His barrister pleaded with the court not to impose a harsher sentence saying the conviction will have drastic implications for Woods's career and his future.

Judge Berkeley ordered that the €1,000 fine would remain the same but allowed Woods extra time, four months, to pay it, otherwise he would be jailed for 30 days in default.

In his appeal yesterday, the sergeant was cleared of a second charge of sexual assault.

The officer had said she had been reading a file when Sergeant Woods walked towards her "and placed his hand on my left breast and said 'wake up there'."

hnews@herald.ie


Privacy