Sergeant's sex assault conviction overturned
A Garda sergeant has won his appeal against his conviction for sexually assaulting a female colleague. Garda Sgt Martin Woods (49) had pleaded not guilty to a sexual assault charge but had been convicted and fined €1,000 following a hearing at Dublin District Court last March.
The sergeant, who has 29 years’ service in An Garda Síochána, then lodged an appeal to the Circuit Court aimed at overturning that conviction.
The woman had claimed he groped her before saying to her: “I’d say you’re some screamer in bed.”
Yesterday the appeal was heard and Judge Terence O’Sullivan held that his conviction should be quashed as there was insufficient evidence that the manner in which he touched the officer constituted an act of indecency and the remark said to her afterwards could have been interpreted as a joke comment.
The woman told the appeal court that on a date in June 2010 she had been at work and was returning a camera to a wall-mounted cabinet in an office in a Dublin Garda station.
The cabinet was located behind the sergeant’s desk and she moved into a gap beside the sergeant who was working on a computer.
She claimed she stood beside him as there was no room to get behind him.
The woman alleged that she leaned towards the cabinet and stretched out one arm and was standing on one leg to reach it when the sergeant “raised his right hand and grabbed the inside of my right upper thigh”.
She said he grabbed her inches from her genital area.
She was in tears as she said that she “screamed at the top of her voice”. She claimed the incident lasted a couple of seconds. “I was hopping on one leg, it felt like he was holding me for an eternity.”
She wept as she told the court that she hit him and felt shocked. “I was disgusted, angry and felt dirty,” she said. The woman also alleged that when she left his office, the sergeant walked up to her at the doorway and said: “I’d say you’re some screamer in bed.”
She also said the sergeant later apologised to her.
When she went home she noticed a bruise where she said she had been touched.
In cross-examination with John Ferry, defending, she rejected suggestions the sergeant touched her “much lower down” and that it had been a joke or she was mistaken in her interpretation of the events.
“What gives him the right to touch me whether it is a joke or a playful matter? Why should he touch me in the first place?”
When further questioned, she said she managed to replace the camera in the cabinet.
Mr Ferry submitted that his client did not have a case to answer. He argued that the prosecution needed to establish that the touching of the officer was an indecent act and there was an intention of indecency.
Judge O’Sullivan said he found it difficult to understand how the woman managed to replace the camera by stretching out in the manner she described. “If the sergeant was able to reach and grapple with the inner part of her right thigh, I doubt she could have managed that.”
The evidence that she was allegedly touched close to her genital area was not sufficient to establish there was an indecent element to the incident.
The remark made to her came afterwards and while it was “not a nice comment”, “it could have been made in a jocose fashion”, the judge said.