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Former Ros Na Rún actor sentenced to six years in jail for oral rape

He had pleaded not guilty to the offence and has no previous convictions.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

A FORMER ROS Na Rún actor has been sentenced to six years in prison for what a judge said was the “predatory” and “callous” rape of a young woman to whom he had given a lift home.

Garrett Phillips (46) of St Mary’s Terrace, Taylor’s Hill, Galway, was convicted after a four-day trial of one charge of orally raping the then 20-year-old woman on the outskirts of Galway city in the early hours of November 5, 2015.

He had pleaded not guilty to the offence and has no previous convictions.

Passing sentence at the Central Criminal Court today, Justice Eileen Creedon said there was a “predatory element” to what she described as the “callous rape” of a young woman.

“She was vulnerable, alone in a park late at night and visibly upset. He made her feel safe by offering his jacket, kind words and a lift home, but he never brought her home,” said the judge.

Justice Creedon said it was “an area of concern” that Phillips still did not accept full responsibility for the offence and believed it had been consensual. She ordered that he be assessed for a therapeutic programme to obtain a greater degree of understanding and insight into his offending and its impact on the victim.

Victim impact statement

The judge cited from the victim impact statement read out in court previously, when the woman said she had been confident, happy and achieving well in her studies before the attack.

“My life was a train on a track in the right direction,” the woman said. Over two and a half years later, she is a “changed person” and has failed to progress in university despite her best efforts, she said.

She is attending counselling and is taking anti-depressants and no longer participates in sport, despite the central role it used to play in her life. She said she has questioned her will to live and struggles with the feeling that the rape was her fault.

She says in the time since the assault, she still feels like the same 20-year-old girl banging on a door for help.

The woman said the court process, during which she had to sit inches away from her attacker, was one of the hardest things she had ever had to do. She said she was forced to speak about something painful and made to feel like a liar when giving her evidence over two days.

Apologies

Justice Creedon said the headline sentence for the offence was eight years, but that she took account of Phillips’ clean record in setting a six-year sentence. She also cited letters from Phillips’ siblings describing him as a devoted husband and father.

Justice Creedon noted that Phillips had lost his marriage and was out of work, and also that he had offered an apology to his family through his lawyer and also to the victim for the “emotional impact” on her. A probation report placed him as at low risk of re-offending.

The court heard that the father-of-two initially worked in his family’s business before getting into acting and had been appearing on stage in London up to his trial.

Detective Garda Evelyn Barrett told Paul Burns SC, prosecuting, that Phillips approached the woman as she sat alone and upset on a park bench and offered her a lift home.

The woman took the lift and, on the way, Phillips asked her if she had ever seen an overview of the city lights. The woman replied that she hadn’t and fell asleep.

When she woke up Phillips was no longer in the driver’s seat but standing over her with his penis in her mouth. The detective said the woman reacted strongly, got out of the van, memorised the registration and ran to a nearby home for help.

During the trial, the jury heard that Phillips claimed the encounter was consensual. He told gardaí that it had started off “very tender” and felt “chemical” between him and the woman.

“Four victims”

Defence counsel Barry White SC submitted that Phillips wished to “unreservedly apologise for his behaviour”. He said his client had not informed his wife about the matter until the evening before his trial.

Detective Garda Barrett agreed that Phillips took up acting after working in the family business and had been appearing on stage in London in the run-up to the trial.

White that this was because there was “not just one victim in the case, there are four”, referring to Phillips’ wife and two children. White also claimed it was highly unlikely that his client would ever gain employment in acting again.

Burns submitted that there were no exceptional circumstances in the case, that other convicted people have families and experience similar problems with employment.

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Aoife Nic Ardghail

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