Man who sexually assaulted sleeping woman jailed for two-and-a-half years

Court told that man and woman had friends in common but did not know each other

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

A Co Westmeath man who sexually assaulted a sleeping woman has been jailed for two-and-a-half years at the Central Criminal Court.

A local garda told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting that the man and woman were unknown to each other, but that they had mutual friends in common. She said the man’s friend had been invited to the house by another occupant and that the man had come along with him following a night out.

The man gave evidence during the trial that he engaged in consensual sexual activity with the woman including digital penetration. He has one previous conviction for a minor road traffic offence.

Passing sentence on Monday, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said that in ordinary circumstances he would have liked to take some time to consider the sentence, but “we don’t live in ordinary circumstances” and it was better not to bring people back on another day.

Mr Justice Hunt said he could not lose sight of the fact that the woman was at home in her bed. He said that while he accepted the man made “a catastrophic error of judgment”, the point remained that “you have a right to be let alone in your own house”.

He said the man had “no business being in that bedroom” or trying to initiate sexual activity with a sleeping person he did not know. He said this was “uncharacteristic behaviour” for the man and said he was “not a bad person outside of this”.

Mr Justice Hunt sentenced the man to two-and-a-half years imprisonment. He said the sentence was lenient in terms of length, but that he had no doubt the man was going it find being in custody very difficult.

The man (24), who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, had pleaded not guilty to raping the woman at an address in Westmeath in September 2016.

Following a trial in February last, the jury returned a verdict of guilty for the offence of sexual assault.

In her victim impact statement, which she read out in court, the woman said that following this ordeal she was left completely in shock and felt “empty and lifeless”. She said the “harrowing experience” was something she had been forced to relive constantly in her mind.

The woman said the man took away her freedom and she was unable to be alone. She said she was still unable to sleep on her own without locking the bedroom door and turning the light on.

She said the person she is now is “just a shadow of who I once was”. She said she does not know if she will ever be the same again.

The woman said she hoped one day she would “become a survivor rather than a victim of this crime”.

The garda said that on the date in question, the then 20-year-old woman had returned from a night out with her friends, changed into her pyjamas and fallen asleep in a bed.

The garda said that the woman woke up to the feeling of having someone on top of her and felt herself being touched. The woman gave evidence during the trial that she felt the person trying to put his penis into her vagina.

The woman realised that she was no longer wearing her pyjamas. She jumped out of bed, wrapped some kind of blanket around her and left the room.

The man told the court that he fully accepted the verdict of the jury. He said he was deeply sorry for having caused the woman pain in her life and hoped she could now move on and have a positive future.