Former Naval Service instructor put under probation bond over sexual assault of female recruit

Derek Nagle pleaded guilty earlier this year to sexual assault of Seana O’Connor whom he slapped on buttocks

A 56-year-old former member of the Naval Service has been put under a probation bond for 12 months following his conviction for sexual assault of a female rating.

Derek Nagle of Kilmona, Grenagh, Co Cork pleaded guilty earlier this year to sexual assault of Seana O’Connor – who waived her right to anonymity – at Haulbowline Naval Base, Cork on March 1st 2022, contrary to Section 2 of the Criminal Law Rape Amendment Act 1990.

On Tuesday at Cork District Court, Judge Marion O’Leary put Nagle under a Probation Bond on his own bond of €300 and ordered him to be of good behaviour and remain under the supervision of the Probation Service for 12 months after reading that a probation report on the accused was positive.

Earlier this year, Insp Anne Marie Guiney outlined the background to the sexual assault which was carried out at lunchtime on the day in question when Naval recruit Seana O’Connor was in the Billets Room at the base in Haulbowline, which is the male living accommodation on the base.


“She was sitting on another male recruit’s bed chatting when Naval officer Leading Seaman Derek Nagle came in and shouted at her, ‘What the f*** are you doing in here?’ She said she was sorry, she was just getting something,” said Insp Guiney.

“Officer Nagle sat on the bed beside her and began pulling her right arm back and forth while gripping her shirt. He put his right hand behind her back and pushed her forward. He put his other hand on the back of her neck, pushing her further forward so that her face was towards the floor.

“At this point her backside came off the bed and she was in a half standing position with her top half bent over. Officer Nagle then proceeded to slap her across the left-hand side of her buttocks forcefully and said to her, ‘I thought you like it rough, O’Connor’, and repeated this a few times.

“After the slap she fell to her knees. She then saw him pick up a bottle of water and believed he was going to throw it over her. She grabbed it off him and said, ‘F*** off, that’s enough now.’ As she was fixing her uniform, he winked at her and said, ‘You’re lucky it wasn’t 14 or 15 years ago.’

“That day she reported the matter to a higher superior officer. And military police were assigned to investigate. A number of other naval recruits were present in the room at the time, and they witnessed the incident.”

Ms O’Connor told in her Victim Impact Statement which she read to the court, how the sexual assault had a seriously damaging effect on her and she was continuing to feel the impact of the incident even though she was grateful for the counselling which the Naval Service had provided.

“I should be happy with the outcome of this but in all honesty this man has broken me. We all have been through situations in our lives that try and test us, and we move on and remain strong but there’s only so much one person can take,” she said.

“After the incident happened, I got up every day, put a face on, finished my branch training, passed my courses, moved on to the ship and had some amazing trips but inside I was breaking and still am. Every night for three to four weeks I had extreme nightmares, breakdowns and having to go to counselling service which the Irish naval service provides. I couldn’t thank them enough.

“But even with all of that I smiled every day, got on with my work and showed everyone that I was OK and, in actual fact, I’m not. A year on and I still would have nightmares. I know ten times worse could have happened to me - I do get that - but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

Defence barrister, Ronan Barnes BL, said Nagle had joined the Naval Service in 1985 and had given 37 years of service and there was nothing like this on his record, but he has since left the service as it was no longer possible for him to continue in his role as a Physical Instructor.

“His position in the Navy became untenable, he has resigned from the Navy. He was an instructor, and it was not appropriate for him to direct physical training. He was interviewed and answered everything that was asked of him,” he said.

“Initially, he was not able to accept there was an indecent element (to the assault). He now accepts the injured party’s account entirely. He instructs me to apologise sincerely to the injured party. It is a horrible thing to have happened. It should not have happened. He cannot give me any explanation. It seems to be an aberration after 37 years of service to the State.”

Mr Barnes BL said his client had offered compensation but he understood that the injured party was not in a position to accept compensation so he suggested she might nominate a charity to which the accused could contribute.

Judge O’Leary found the probation report to be positive and finalised the matter by putting Nagle under a probation bond for 12 months.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times