Clonmel Courthouse where the case was heard at a sitting of Clonmel Circuit Court
A 46-year-old Tipperary man received a two year suspended jail term at Clonmel Circuit Court for sexually assaulting a woman while she was sleeping after a house party.
The man, who Judge Patrick Meghan directed can’t be named in the media, pleaded guilty to committing the sexual assault on the woman, who was aged in her 20s, at a house in Tipperary on December 1, 2018.
Garda Declan Corrigan told the court the injured party socialised with friends on Friday, November 30, 2018 and at the end of the night they went to a house party.
She was part of a group who ended up in a bedroom where the party continued. They were joined by the defendant, who arrived at the party some time later.
In the early hours of Saturday, the injured party and another female friend got into a double bed in the bedroom and fell asleep. She was fully clothed. Other members of the group were still in the bedroom.
At approximately 7am, she awoke to find the defendant touching her vagina through her clothing. He was next to the bed. His penis was exposed and he was manipulating it with her hand.
The woman started screaming when she realised what was going on and alerted the rest of the group. Everyone woke up and the defendant left the room. The woman went home, confided in a friend and reported the incident to gardaí the next day.
Garda Corrigan said the woman was adamant she hadn’t consented to this and was completely shocked by what happened.
He said the defendant’s only previous convictions were for road traffic offences. He was arrested and interviewed by gardaí on January 21, 2019. “He was very remorseful and upset and said he had misread the situation. He thought the injured party fancied him. He thought he had picked up signals from her.”
Garda Corrigan said the woman insisted she gave no signals to anybody that night.
Defence barrister Cephas Power said there was a lot of drink consumed at this party. When the injured party started screaming, his client tried to apologise.
He was fully clothed and at no stage did he put his hand inside the woman’s clothes. His client “completely misread the situation”. He pointed out that a number of text messages were exchanged between the victim and his client that day in which he apologised and admitted what he did.
One text from the injured party stated: “What the f**k do you think you were doing. Do you think it was acceptable when I was passed out asleep?”
His response was: “I am so sorry. I am disgusted with myself.” In a later text he said he would never be able to make it better and he had lost everything because of his stupid drinking.
Mr Power said his client was very forthcoming when gardaí interviewed him. He was full of remorse and empathy towards the injured party.
He wrote a letter of apology, which could be passed on to her if she wished. The barrister said his client was admitted to psychiatric care for a number of weeks after this incident. He was still under that care.
He pointed to the Probation Service’s positive report on his client. He was the father of very young children and cared for his parents.
Mr Power requested Judge Meghan to suspend any jail term and make an order prohibiting the naming of his client in media reports of the case as to do so may identify the injured party.
Judge Meghan said the aggravating factor in this case was that the victim was taken advantage of while she was asleep.
He accepted this incident was at the lower end of the scale of sexual assaults. It warranted a two year jail term which he suspended for two years in view of the defendant’s remorse, apology, guilty plea, his explanation that he misread the situation and the fact a lot of drink was involved.
The judge also noted there was no violence involved and the Probation Service concluded the risk of him re-offending was low.
He suspended the jail term on condition the defendant engage with the Probation Service, reside at an address agreed with his probation officer, inform the Probation Service of any address change and abstain from alcohol and drugs.
Judge Meghan also directed the defendant comply with all assessments under the Sex Offenders Act and attend employment support services. As the jail term was suspended, there was no requirement to place him on the Sex Offenders Register, he added.