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Courts

Former army private jailed for six years for attempted rape at his home

28-year-old Bernard Fleming had pleaded not guilty to the attempted rape which happened after he met the victim outside an early house in Dublin in 2011.

6839756294_50eea8c3ad_k William Murphy William Murphy

A PRIVATE IN the army who was found guilty of the attempted rape of a woman last December has been sentenced to six years with the last three years suspended.

Bernard Fleming (28) of Owendoher Lodge, Ballyboden, Dublin pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to attempted rape, oral rape and sexual assault of the woman at a location in Dublin on 24 September 2011. The jury convicted him of attempted rape following a trial.

The woman met Fleming and his friend that morning outside an early house, where they had been drinking following a night out in Dublin city centre. She later went to his home, along with his friend, where they continued drinking.

Alex Owens SC, prosecuting, said the woman had been out socialising with a friend on 23 September where the “consumption of quite a considerable amount of alcohol” had taken place.

Bender

Brendan Grehan SC, defending, said his client had been “on some kind of a bender that lasted a few days” prior to this event.

At some stage Fleming’s friend left and the woman went to bed. She woke to find Fleming kissing her and trying to have sex with her. She ran out of the room and was helped by others who were also living in the house.

Fleming then appeared from the room, drunk, aggressive and wearing only a towel. There was a confrontation between him and the victim and he was heard saying sorry but it was unclear what that apology related to.

The victim got a taxi to her sister’s house and went to a nearby Garda station with her friend to report the rape.

Fleming was later arrested and denied the allegations. He claimed he had been fully clothed at all times.

The woman, who declined to make a victim impact report, was medically examined and found to have bruises around her arms consistent with the account she gave to the jury of being held down during the attack.

Major effect

Detective Garda Donal Daly told the court that he felt that “this incident has had a major effect on her life”.

In mitigation Fleming’s counsel said while alcohol “can never be an excuse or an explanation” the court could not ignore what one might call “risky behaviour” by both parties and there was “nothing predatory about what happened”.

Counsel said his client had lost not just “something that was his job” but it was “his vocation and his career”.

He said his client had spent time overseas while serving in the army. He came from “a decent hard-working background” and was immediately discharged from the army upon conviction last year, counsel said.

“Time has marched on, not just for the complainant but for everyone to do with this case, and he is in a stable relationship with his girlfriend for the last number of years and they have a son to whom he is a devoted father,” said Mr Grehan.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy noted that gardaí accepted there was “no element of a predatory offence” but said Fleming had taken advantage of a drunken young woman who had fallen asleep in his bed.

She acknowledged that since his conviction he had been discharged from the army and accepted that he had no previous convictions and had strong family support.

She said Fleming had suffered “the severe consequences of his actions” through the loss of his career.

Ms Justice Kennedy sentenced Fleming to six years in prison with the final three years suspended on strict conditions. She ordered that he undergo 18 months post-release supervision and engage with the Probation Service for that period.

Read: Man previously jailed for damaging €10m Monet painting convicted of having rare stolen books

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Author
Alison O'Riordan and Sonya McLean