Jury awards victim of sexual assault by publican £140,000

 

A young woman was awarded £140,000 damages and costs in the High Court yesterday after a jury found she had been sexually assaulted by former Dublin publican Mr William Bonny.

During the eight-day case, Ms Monica Reilly (22), of South Brown Street, Dublin, had alleged that Mr Bonny (52), a building contractor and former owner of the Bonny & Clyde pub, Newmarket, had sexually assaulted her while she worked in his pub from September 1992 to May 1993.

Ms Reilly said she had wanted to kill herself because of what had happened, spent three periods in the psychiatric unit of St James's Hospital and had lost 49lb in weight.

Mr Bonny denied the allegations. He said there was "obviously something wrong" with Ms Reilly and alleged that she was, in effect, blackmailing him.

Closing speeches were made by counsel for Ms Reilly and counsel for Mr Bonny yesterday after which Mr Justice Kelly charged the jury and sent it out to consider a verdict. The jury returned after two hours. It found Mr Bonny had assaulted Ms Reilly; that the assault was sexual in nature and that it violated Ms Reilly's constitutional right to bodily integrity. It awarded £135,000 in compensatory damages and £5,000 in aggravated damages.

Mr Justice Kelly awarded costs to Ms Reilly, estimated at almost £150,000. The judge agreed to stay the payment of damages and costs until next Tuesday to allow submissions to be made on an appeal. Legal sources suggest the case is the first civil action of its kind alleging sexual assault to be taken in the High Court.

Outside the court, Mr Bonny told reporters he would be appealing the verdict. He was shocked by the amount of the award. He wanted to thank his family and the friends who had supported them. Ms Reilly declined to comment but a family member said they wished to thank the public for its support.

After the verdict, Mr Ronnie Robbins SC, for Ms Reilly, said a threat had been made to his client last weekend. He sought an order impounding the records and the transcript of the case. Counsel said gardai were investigating the incident and there was no suggestion Mr Bonny was involved.

Mr Martin Giblin SC, for Mr Bonny, said his solicitor had spoken to a Garda sergeant who had reached conclusions about the incident. He was instructed the sergeant was satisfied the matter emanated from Wheatfield Prison and there was communication between prisoners in Wheatfield and Mountjoy. He said the sergeant was at a loss to know what was going on.

Mr Justice Kelly said this was the second time a serious incident had arisen during the hearing. During the trial he had heard, in the absence of the jury, that an attempt had been made to intimidate a witness whom Ms Reilly's side wished to call. There was a threat to petrol bomb the home of that witness's mother in which there were young children. He was satisfied that threat was real and not a prank.

The judge wanted to make it clear the courts would not succumb to such pressure. If such threats were made, witnesses would be given the State support to ensure that the administration of justice was not brought to its knees. The judge said at no time was it suggested that Mr Bonny was involved in the making of any threat.

Dealing with the threat to Ms Reilly last weekend, the judge said it was under investigation by the Garda. He said he would deal with the matter as contempt of court, if it was brought before him.

The judge also ordered that the exhibits, the transcript and the stenographer's record of the case be handed into court and retained pending further order. In his charge to the jury, Mr Justice Kelly told it this was not a case of mis-recollection, but a case of lies on one side or the other.