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European Karate champion jailed for six years for sexual assault on college student

Rachel McElroy told the court she cried for hours after the attack as videos of which bystanders posted on social media.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A EUROPEAN KARATE champion who sexually assaulted a young college student outside a nightclub and then lifted her up the road to further attack her has been jailed for six years.

Bagrat Kudzievi of Albert Rd, Cork city, who was living in Ireland illegally has been ordered to return to his native Georgia on his release from custody.

The 29-year-old was unanimously convicted by a jury at the Central Criminal Court in Dublin in early November following a trial where he faced two counts of the sexual assault of Rachel McElroy at locations in Cork city centre on the evening of October 19, 2019.

The victim was just 18-years-old when she was sexually assaulted by Kudzievi on what was her first college night out with friends.

McElroy, who watched the sentencing hearing by video link in Cork, said that she wanted to be identified in media reports about the case. She spoke movingly after the sentencing hearing urging other people who find themselves in her position to come forward.

Ms Justice Tara Burns, who sentenced Mr Kudzievi at a sitting of the Central Criminal Court in Dublin, told Ms McElroy that she had experienced “every young woman’s worst nightmare. ”

“This was an innocent night out. A bunch of young women enjoying themselves. A small amount of alcohol was consumed and for whatever reason it had a significant effect on the young woman. CCTV from outside the nightclub shows her in an incapable state,” the Judge said. 

The court heard that CCTV showed Rachel falling inside the venue and struggling to walk outside the nightclub.

Ms Justice Burns said that Rachel had sat down beside Kudzievi in the smoking area at 10.20pm on the night of the assault. Seven minutes later he was walking her to an alcove where he sexually assaulted her.

Ms Justice Burns said that people started filming the pair on their mobile phones.  Kudzievi then lifted Ms McElroy up and carried her across a bridge and put her on a footpath.

She said that the defendant started a “grinding motion” on top of the victim. Bouncers who were concerned for the welfare of the young woman, and who had followed them, intervened and separated the pair.

Ms Justice Burns said that McElroy was hugely impacted by what had occurred to her.

“She ended up dropping out of college. Losing her confidence and feeling empty and lost.

“He (the defendant) subjected her to degrading behaviour. She was filmed by strangers in a state of undress. This is extremely serious,” Judge Burns said. 

Ms Justice Burns jailed Kudzievi for for seven years with one year suspended. The sentence was backdated to October 2019 when Kudzievi first entered custody in relation to the matter. He had claimed the incident was consensual.

Detective Garda Donal Daly said that the defendant moved to Ireland three years ago and lived under a Polish identity which he used to get a social security number. Kudzievi is without any previous convictions in this or other jurisdictions.

He has given an undertaking to leave the jurisdiction upon his release from custody having been ordered to do so by the court.

Defence barrister Tom Creed, SC, said that his client was a former national champion of karate in Georgia as well as a a silver medalist at European championships.

Rachel McElroy gave a victim impact statement in which she stated that she had very little memory of what had occurred. 

“I had no idea where I was. I didn’t even know who I was,” she said.

She told the court that she cried for hours after she was informed of what had happened.  She dropped out of college but has since returned and is slowly putting her life back together.

Speaking outside the court in Cork McElroy stated that she decided to waive her right to anonymity in order to reach other people who may have suffered similar trauma to hers.

“It is okay to speak up about stuff like this. It is never okay to hold it in. It impacts so much on your life and I feel like talking about it even to strangers helps me a lot and has lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders.

“I find it very healing, speaking out and helping other people. The amount of help and support I got from speaking out was fantastic.

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“It was my first college night out with my friends. We went out to enjoy ourselves. It is a night I have no memory of only of being in the garda station getting my mouth swabbed. 

“How could people have thoughts like that? To take something from someone’s life that they will never be able to get back. It was a horrible thing to do. For that man I have no sympathy. I am very disgusted,” she added. 

McElroy said in the aftermath of the incident she turned to alcohol for a period but with the assistance of her family, friends and Det Garda Donal Daly she has managed to get her life back on a more even keel.

She is now planning to walk with her head held high.

“I didn’t expect to get a 12 out of 12 jury vote. It was the relief that I was believed more than anything,” Rachel McElroy said. 

McElroy admitted that she was hurt that some girls, not known to her, decided to record what the defendant was doing to her outside the nightclub instead of seeking help. She only found out that this had taken place after the fact as the night was a blur to her.

 ”I found them very disrespectful. I was disgusted in that. They could have helped or pulled us apart. But they would rather have taken a video and put it all over social media,” she added. 

McElroy stated that being cross examined during the trial was “tough” but she stayed focused and composed. She added she was relieved that her attacker had received a lengthy sentence.

“If you just rise against it and hold your head up high. When you are on the stand you feel like the person in power. I kept my head turning to the jury and the judge. I told the truth. What I remembered. I have very little memory of it.

“The sentence is a better outcome than I expected. I am very happy. I am walking out of here today and he is not.”

About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

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