A serving member of An Garda Síochána was sentenced today to two years in jail for what a judge described as “an opportunist and repellent sexual assault on a sleeping female”.
At Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Rory MacCabe described the fact that the defendant will lose his job as a significant penalty but added “people have to accept the natural consequences of their actions”.
The judge refused a request by defence counsel Ken Fogarty for a suspended term. Earlier, Mr Fogarty told Judge MacCabe that the defendant has already been served with dismissal papers by the Garda Commissioner.
Earlier this year, the defendant, a married man with children, went on trial at the Circuit Criminal Court charged with sexually assaulting a woman after getting into her bed in a hotel room in the West of Ireland.
As the trial was about to enter its final stages, the accused changed his plea to guilty on a single count of sexual assault contrary to Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1990.
At the previous hearing, evidence was heard that the accused is known to the complainant and travelled with her as part of a group to a charity event in a west of Ireland town in July 2015. The victim was the only female present.
The group then stayed overnight in an apartment.
The victim told the court the group had enjoyed drinks and played card games that evening.
She said she had put on her pyjamas and retired to the double bed she was later to share with her husband.
The woman gave evidence that she was awakened from sleep by a man who was molesting her. Her attacker had put fingers in her and she could feel his penis on her bottom. She explained that as a bedside locker light was switched on by her husband, her attacker got out of bed with his trousers down.
She gave evidence she was highly distressed afterwards and was comforted and cuddled by her husband.
The court heard that the next day the victim and her husband got a Facebook message from the accused in which he apologised to both of them for what happened.
In the message, the accused claimed not to remember much about what had happened. He added: “Unfortunately, loads of beer and Captain Morgan’s [rum] do not fit well with me. I can only guess that in my drunken stupor I went to the wrong bed.”
In an emotional victim impact statement she read to today’s sentencing hearing, the victim said being betrayed by a person she then regarded as a friend while in the vulnerable state of sleep left her sick to the core. She told of her difficulties in reporting the incident.
She said she embarked on self-harm. “I hated my body for not waking sooner,” she said. “I am branded by the actions of another and I will carry this with me forever.
“Not a day goes by that it does not affect me. It set me on a completely different course than the one I had taken.”
Defence counsel Mr Fogarty said his client made a drunken decision in the apartment and had asked him to convey to the victims his profound sorrow and remorse for what happened.
After the case, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission said: “Gsoc applauds the bravery of a woman who three years ago made an allegation of sexual assault against a garda.
“Today in Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court this guard was sentenced to a two-year custodial sentence. We recognise the courage it takes to make a complaint of sexual assault, with the added dimension where the defendant is a member of An Garda Síochána. We reiterate that anyone subject to a similar assault who comes to Gsoc will be met with sensitivity and professionalism during an investigation.
“We wish the complainant and her family all the best for the future.”
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