Navy seaman denies sex assault of female colleague

Complainant tells court she was outraged when sailor slapped her on the bottom

A complainant has said in court her Irish Navy colleague slapped her on the bottom and the buttocks while she was working. She spoke of her outrage at the actions of her colleague. Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters

A complainant has said in court her Irish Navy colleague slapped her on the bottom and the buttocks while she was working. She spoke of her outrage at the actions of her colleague. Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters

Mon, Jul 1, 2013, 18:37

A sailor in the Irish Navy yesterday denied sexually assaulting a female colleague, instead insisting he had engaged in general banter and horseplay with the complainant.

The seaman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged with sexually assaulting a female colleague on board a ship in the summer of 2012, contrary to Section 2 of the Criminal Law Rape Amendment Act 1990.

His trial got under way yesterday at a District Court in Co Cork.

The complainant said her colleague slapped her on the bottom and the buttocks while she was working. She spoke of her outrage at the actions of her colleague.

“I was livid. I felt helpless. I felt degraded. People should well know you cannot tolerate this behaviour in the workplace. I shouted at him, how dare he touch me and never do it again...’ Saying stop is the only protection in the Naval service.”

The court heard that 15 minutes later the male sailor allegedly grabbed the complainant on the breasts and squeezed them. The female seaman said she “felt that a piece of her had died”. She allegedly kicked the accused and he reportedly found this to be funny.

“He was trying to belittle what had happened and make it something miniscule and hilarious. I felt helpless and powerless.”

The court heard that the accused had on a previous occasion asked his female colleague for oral sex and for a “quickie” downstairs.

Reprimand wanted

The complainant told Judge Brian Sheridan she was angry and upset by her colleague’s actions and wanted him to be reprimanded. An internal investigation commenced in the Navy, but it ceased once the complainant approached gardaí with her allegations.

The complainant described making an allegation against a colleague as a very “daunting” experience.

“You are seen as traitor for rocking the boat and going against the lads. It’s all about the boys. The victim gets persecuted and the persecutor gets support. I wanted justice and I wanted it to be dealt with by the law of the land because the Navy does not take complaints of sexual assaults or harassment against women seriously.”

In evidence the accused admitted engaging in horseplay with the complainant, but insisted it was all good-spirited banter with no malicious intent. He denied suggestions he had previously asked his colleague to perform fellatio on him or had made references to sexual intercourse.

He told the court he had apologised to the complainant to “be nice”, but he wasn’t really sure what he was apologising for. A female colleague of the pair said in evidence that she witnessed one of the alleged incidents but that she didn’t interpret any malicious behaviour on her male colleague’s behalf. The female sailor said the accused was just engaging in horseplay or banter.

The case was adjourned until Thursday afternoon to allow for submissions and the deliberations of the judge.