A judge has criticised a hospital for putting a 17-year-old girl with serious injuries in a mixed ward where she was sexually assaulted by a man (63) with a history of psychiatric problems.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said serious questions had to be asked of Cork University Hospital management over the way they operated their ward system after hearing how Andrew O’Donovan sexually assaulted the teenager.
“This is a very, very troubling case where you have two patients presenting to Cork University Hospital and were placed side by side in a mixed ward and one sexually assaulted the other in the late night/early morning,” he said.
“You have to question the management of the ward system that allowed this young girl to be placed in close proximity to a man who was known to have a history of schizophrenic tendencies and a long psychiatric history.”
Judge Ó Donnabháin made his comments after O'Donovan, of Butlersgift, Drimoleague, Co Cork pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to sexually assaulting the girl in CUH on May 14th, 2018.
Det Garda Caroline Keogh of the Cork Protective Services Unit told how the girl was in the four bed ward with three adult men when O'Donovan appeared in a gap in the curtains around her bed at around 5am.
He came inside the curtain and began talking to her before he started stroking her arm and then placed his hand on breast and touched her vagina through the sheet and her pyjamas.
He then tried to kiss her but she moved her face to one side as he asked her out for dinner and invited her to go the cinema before he moved away and returned to his own bed.
Det Garda Keogh said the girl was unable to use the alert bell because of her injuries but nursing staff were alerted when they noticed O’Donovan’s heart started racing and his heart monitor reached elevated levels.
In her victim impact statement, the teenager said an accident had left her completely immobilised but she thought she was safe in hospital.
“The hospital placed me into a separate room but despite being separated from the defendant, I was very fearful and distressed, knowing that I was in the same building as him and therefore, I wanted to go home.”
She told how she was so fearful the following night that her father had to sleep in a chair beside her bed in the hospital and that since the incident she had developed a fear of older men and coming into contact with them on her own.
The assault affected her study for her Leaving Cert as she was suffered anxiety and flashbacks and she could not concentrate on school and she did not get the points she needed for her chosen course even though it was within her ability.
“This has changed my whole career path in life. During the Leaving Cert exam, the incident was headlined on the papers which led to my friends finding out about it, therefore increasing my anxiety,” she said.
The teenager, who said she saw no remorse in O’Donovan when he appeared in court, said she hoped the age for teenagers to be treated as paediatric patients would be raised from 16 to 18 as a result of “this horrible situation”.
O’Donovan failed to show up for sentencing on Tuesday afternoon but the judge said it was clear to him from seeing him at earlier court appearances that he had “limitations”.
Det Garda Keogh agreed that O’Donovan, whose wife died just before Christmas, had limitations and she confirmed that he no previous convictions and lived a fairly basic existence in a remote rural area.
Defence counsel Dermot Sheehan SC said his client had been receiving psychiatric treatment at Bantry General Hospital since the 1980s and he pointed out that he had saved his victim the trauma of a trial with his guilty plea.
The judge said O’Donovan presented a sentencing problem given his psychiatric history but he noted his guilty plea was of benefit to the victim in that it was a public acknowledgement that he was guilty and she was innocent.