Garda jailed for two years for sexual assault on sleeping woman

Court told Garda Commissioner has served garda with his dismissal orders

Victim in her impact statement said: ‘Who would take my word above that of a garda who is supposed to be a pillar of the community and above the law?’ Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Victim in her impact statement said: ‘Who would take my word above that of a garda who is supposed to be a pillar of the community and above the law?’ Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

A serving member of An Garda Síochána was sentenced on Friday to two years in prison for what a judge described as “an opportunist and repellent sexual assault on a sleeping female”.

Imposing sentence at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court, Judge Rory MacCabe described the fact 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 prison term.

Earlier Mr Fogarty told Judge MacCabe that the defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, 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 an event in the west of Ireland in 2015. The victim was the only female present. The group stayed overnight in an apartment.

The victim told the court the group had enjoyed drinks and played card games as the evening wore on.

She said that she had put on her pyjamas and retired to the double bed she was later to share with her husband.

The female 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.

The victim then 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 by her husband.

The court heard that on the following day the victim and her husband got a Facebook message from the accused in which he apologised to both of them for what had 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.” The message continued: “I can only guess that in my drunken stupor I went to the wrong bed.”

In an emotional, lengthy victim impact statement which she read to Friday’s sentencing hearing, the victim said being betrayed by a person she then regarded as a friend while in that most vulnerable state – sleeping – left her sick to the very core.

She spoke of her initial difficulties in reporting the incident.

“Who would take my word above that of a garda who is supposed to be a pillar of the community and above the law?”

All her emotional torment could have been avoided in 2015 if he had pleaded guilty then, the victim added.

Continuing her impact statement, she said she had embarked on self-harm. “I hated my body for not waking sooner.”

The victim ended her statement by saying: “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”.

The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc) released a statement after the sentencing.

“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.”

The statement said anyone subject to a similar assault who came to Gsoc would be met with sensitivity and professionalism during an investigation.

“We wish the complainant and her family all the best for the future.”