A 32-YEAR-OLD man who groped a 14-year-old girl while she slept appealed a ten-month sentence for the offence at the Circuit Court in Portlaoise, where Judge Tony Hunt declared that in the wake of the recent Fiona Doyle abuse case “the public have little taste for sexual offenders”.
The man, who can not be named for legal reasons, received the ten-month sentence at a previous sitting of Portlaoise District Court, having been convicted of sexual assault in a home in Portlaoise on June 28, 2011.
At the recent Circuit Court, Garda Ray Demody outlined the facts of the case.
When gardaí arrived at the house, they found the injured party sitting on the couch sobbing and claiming she had been the victim of a sexual assault. The girl was very upset and distraught and asked to speak to a female garda. The girl told the garda that she went to bed at 3.15am, but was woken up to find the accused with his hand up her top, squeezing her breast. She screamed and the owner of the house came to the room, where a struggle ensued with the accused. The garda said there were four adults in the house, including the accused. Garda Demody also told the court that the accused made no admissions when arrested and had denied the allegations.
Further background on the case was given by State prosecutor, Mr Donal Dunne. Mr Dunne told the court that the girl had arrived at the house for a sleepover and had been playing cards and Monopoly. Some of the adults were drinking alcohol, but the girl was just drinking Coke. The girl got into bed in her clothes and when she woke up, she felt a hand going up and down under her top. During the assault, the accused’s hand moved from around her belly button up to around her breast. Mr Dunne said that the girl was nervous after the incident and did not want to tell her friends, nor did she want to come back to Portlaoise alone.
“But she’s dealing with it,” Mr Dunne added.
Defence, Mr Rory Hanniffy said that quite an amount of alcohol had been consumed on the night. He said that the incident only lasted a few seconds. “It was a short but significant incident,” interjected Judge Hunt.
The judge said it was understandable why the District Court had imposed a custodial sentence, as the accused had molested a young girl while she was sleeping.
The accused took the witness box, to say that he had drank seven or eight cans before starting on shots and then someone produced Xanax tablets.
“After that I can’t remember,” he said. “I’m on medication and shouldn’t have been drinking at all.”
He said that he had pleaded not guilty to the charge as he had not been able to remember the incident.
“The fact that you’re not able to remember still leaves the assessment that you could have accepted what she remembered,” remarked Judge Hunt. “This young girl subjected to an indignity had to relive it in front of strangers.”
“I’m very sorry,” replied the accused. “I accept I was upstairs. I’m sorry to her and her family.”
The accused also said he had raised €1,000 to offer the girl by way of compensation, and he attributed his actions to “too much alcohol and stupidness”.
“That’s there and it’s a fact, however it’s not so easy to say ‘I was drunk and I can’t remember’,” said Judge Hunt. “It’s still a matter of concern that a grown man would do this to a young girl.”
Mr Hanniffy described his client’s actions as “an aberration”.
“An aberration that gives rise to a worrying propensity?” asked Judge Hunt. “As this week shows, the public have little taste for sexual offenders.”
Judge Hunt put the matter back for a probation report and directed that the probation officer should consult with the accused’s medical adviser. The judge said he was not making any promises on the sentencing, but he declared it would not be appropriate to give the man community service.
“Community service might bring him into contact with people and the community might be a little uneasy about a person like this doing that,” he said.
The matter was put back to April 23.