Woman loses claim that Garda sexually assulted her

Antoinette Canty
Antoinette Canty

CLAIMS by a 33-year-old north Kerry woman that she was sexually assaulted by a Listowel garda in his patrol car 13 years ago were dismissed as 'devoid of any foundation in fact' at the High Court on Tuesday.

Antoinette Canty, a hairdresser from Causeway, lost her action for damages in a civil case in which she claimed that now retired garda Thomas Noonan had sexually assaulted in a patrol car in Listowel in March of 2001.

Mr Justice Iarflaith O'Neill found that Ms Canty had no capacity to remember the events of the night as she was 'exceedingly and incoherently drunk' at the time of the sex assault she alleged, having consumed at least 13 drinks on the night.

Ms Canty sued for damages for psychological trauma, distress and upset against Mr Noonan and the Minister for Justice. Both denied the claims.

Ms Canty claimed Mr Noonan had given her a lift home on the night in a patrol car and had driven past her home before stopping and putting his hand on her upper thigh before she eventually managed to flee.

But Mr Justice O'Neill found her evidence unreliable and said it was a 'wholesale reconstruction or re-imagined version contributed by those close to her'. He said that Mr Noonan had dealt with Ms Canty on the night in the course of his duty and had carried out that duty properly.

The then garda had driven Ms Canty to Listowel Garda Station from a fast food outlet in the town so she could phone home for a lift, the court heard. But Ms Canty had fled from the car as Mr Noonan was entering the station. He did not pursue her as she was not under arrest.

The judge said it was probable that she had entered another car after this in which she had experienced a frightening event. Ms Canty had described getting into a dark car on the night, but Mr Noonan had been driving the brightly-marked garda car. The Judge said he was satisfied Mr Noonan had not been the driver of that car and that it was not a garda car.

Mr Justice O'Neill said it would have been impossible for Mr Noonan to have driven her home, as she alleged, in the short time he was on a break that night. His wife and daughter corroborated his evidence that he had come home briefly that night during his break.

Gardaí investigated Ms Canty's allegations at the time but the DPP decided not to prosecute.

Costs were awarded against Ms Canty. Mr Justice O'Neill also questioned why Mr Noonan had not been granted legal aid saying he qualified financially for the assistance.