Judge hopes report sheds light on why man sexually assaulted girl in shop

Michael Toner (51) grabbed teen by private parts while she was in Penney’s store with mother

Michael Toner, from MacSwiney Quay, Bandon, Co Cork, denied the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl at Penney’s in Cork city centre on July 3rd, 2018.

Michael Toner, from MacSwiney Quay, Bandon, Co Cork, denied the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl at Penney’s in Cork city centre on July 3rd, 2018.

 

A judge has ordered a probation report in an attempt to understand what prompted a 51-year-old man with no previous history of sexual misconduct to sexually assault a teenage girl as she walked with her mother through a shop.

Michael Toner, from MacSwiney Quay, Bandon, Co Cork, had denied the sexual assault of the 14-year-old girl at Penney’s in Cork city centre on July 3rd, 2018. However, a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court found him guilty after deliberating for more than an hour.

In a victim impact statement delivered on the girl’s behalf by investigating officer Garda Don McCarthy, she recalled how Toner grabbed her by her private parts without warning as she walked through the store with her mother.

“I was very upset and crying. In the beginning I was thinking about it all the time,” said the girl, who explained that she used to love going shopping with her mother but was apprehensive about going into Cork since the sexual assault.

Defence barrister Niamh Stewart BL pleaded for leniency and pointed out that her client had no previous convictions for sexual offences. She also said the sexual assault was at the lower end of the scale for such offences as it involved touching the girl through her clothing.

Ms Stewart said the Director of Public Prosecutions had taken a similarly view as she had consented to the matter being dealt with in the district court, but Toner opted for trial by judge and jury and that was why the matter ended up in the circuit court.

Leniency

She pleaded for leniency on the basis that Toner would end up on the Sex Offenders Register and said he would lose his accommodation as a result of being jailed. He was also at risk of losing his job on foot of a jail sentence.

Judge Brian O’Callaghan said it was a very upsetting case for the girl given her age and he said the court was as impressed with her evidence as was the jury. He acknowledged the trauma that the assault had caused her.

However, the judge said he was perplexed by the fact that Toner would sexually assault a young girl in this manner given that he proffered no explanation for his behaviour and had no previous record of engaging in such misconduct.

“He has never done anything of this nature before in his 51 years on the planet. I am anxious to find out where this offence came from,” he said.

Describing the sexual assault as “a horrible incident”, Judge O’Callaghan remanded Toner in custody to allow for a preparation of a Probation Report which he believed could assist the court in sentencing.

He adjourned the matter to April 22nd.