A female soldier who was sexually assaulted by an Army officer after a social function at a military barracks three years ago has told a military court about the impact of the incident on her life.
The noncommissioned officer (NCO) also described the effect of the subsequent trial and media publicity about the case on her.
Details of the victim impact statement given by the NCO, however, cannot be reported due to an order by the military judge, Colonel Michael Campion.
It followed an application by counsel for the Director of Military Prosecutions, Commandant Seán Coffey BL, for a ban to be imposed on the soldier’s statement.
Cmdt Coffey said the application for existing reporting restrictions in the case to be extended to the victim impact statement was being made “in the interests of justice” and not to cause more trauma to the victim.
Giving his ruling, the judge said publication of the specific details of the statement could also impact on the engagement by both the victim and her assailant in the ongoing court martial process.
Addressing the NCO at the conclusion of the woman’s statement as she wiped tears from her eyes, the judge remarked: “That wasn’t easy.”
The witness made no eye contact with her attacker during her five-minute appearance at the Military Justice Centre in McKee Barracks in Dublin on Wednesday.
The Army officer, who cannot be identified by order of the judge, was found guilty of sexual assault following a six-week jury trial in December.
The officer had pleaded not guilty to the charge that he had moved his open palms up and down the back of his victim while saying: “Come on, come on.”
The incident occurred shortly before midnight on June 25th, 2020 in an officer’s mess within a military base that also cannot be identified.
The trial heard that the accused had been brought to the mess after being found asleep, while in uniform, in a drunken state following a barbecue on the base that occurred at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The officer was also found guilty of a separate charge of assaulting the same soldier by moving towards her in a manner which led her to apprehend she was going to be assaulted.
However, he was cleared of another charge of sexual assault against the same victim where he had been accused of placing both his arms around her torso in an inappropriate manner.
The officer was also acquitted of two counts of sexual assault and one of assault against a second female soldier a short time earlier outside a building in the same barracks.
At the outset of the trial, the officer – who originally faced a total of 17 charges – pleaded guilty to five offences including two counts of assault.
They related to him grabbing the left wrist forcibly of one female NCO and assaulting the other female soldier by placing his arms around her torso.
He also pleaded guilty to two counts of drunkenness and one count of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline contrary to Section 168 of the Defence Act by admitting he had said “I’m a prick” to the two NCOs.
During the trial, three other Section 168 charges were withdrawn by the DMP while Col Campion separately directed the jury – known as a court martial board – to acquit the accused of three other charges including one of sexual assault.
The board consisted of five men and two women who are all senior ranking officers composed of Army, naval and Air Corps personnel.
Most details of the case have not been reported as a result of extensive reporting restrictions in relation to military personnel, operations and locations imposed by Col Campion, including a prohibition on daily reports of the evidence of witnesses.
The judge said on Wednesday that he would keep the issue of reporting restrictions “under review”.