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Circuit Criminal Court

Security guard jailed for sexual assault of woman in Phoenix Park

Cornel Onofrei pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the woman in 2018.

A MAN WHO sexually assaulted a woman after bringing her to a park in his car has been jailed for nine months.

Cornel Onofrei (38) initially denied assaulting the woman, who was under the impression he was a taxi driver, by kissing her after driving to “remote dark location” in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard the woman pushed him off and exited the car, finding herself in darkness in the park before Onofrei then drove her home.

Onofrei, with an address at Manor Place, Manor Street, Dublin pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the woman at a place unknown in the Phoneix Park on 17 December 2018.

He has 28 previous convictions, including 14 road traffic convictions from Ireland and prior theft and immigration offences from outside the state.

Passing sentence today, Judge Melanie Greally said the circumstances in which the offence was committed were “somewhat unusual”.

Judge Greally said the victim had been socialising at an office party and was “quite heavily intoxicated” when she and another person encountered Onofrei.

She said the victim believed him to be a taxi driver, but he was in fact working as a security guard. She said Onofrei indicated he would take the victim to her home, but instead took a route that brought them to a “remote dark location” in the Phoenix Park.

The judge said Onofrei initiated sexual contact with the victim by kissing her lips and face. She said the woman pushed him off and got out of the car.

She said the victim was “distressed and afraid”. She said the victim asked him to drive her home area and Onofrei did this.

Judge Greally said Onofrei was detected via CCTV and while he co-operated with the interview process, he was not truthful relating to many of the actions he took on the evening. She said he made admissions in relation to driving to the public park.

She said the accused appears to have little real appreciation of the seriousness of his conduct and the assessment of the Probation Service places him at a medium risk of reoffending.

The judge said his denial that his behaviour was sexually harmful has had an impact on the view of his probation officer in relation to the likely success of probation supervision.

Judge Greally said there was “sinister and predatory behaviour” on the part of the accused man. She said he took advantage of a person who was “manifestly intoxicated and unwell”.

She said the accused took the victim to “an extremely remote and low-lit place” in the public park and has caused her “very considerable” stress and fear in the aftermath.

The judge said she would give him credit for his plea of guilty and his admissions made “in spite of some manifest untruths”.

She said she took into account he has expressed regret regarding the distress and harm caused to the victim, while not acknowledging himself guilty of sexually harmful behaviour. She said she took into account he had brought €850 to the court which the victim is willing to accept.

Judge Greally sentenced Onofrei to 13 months imprisonment, but suspended the final four months of the sentence on strict conditions, including that he follow all directions of the Probation Service for 12 months post-release.

She said her view was that the principle of general deterrence necessitates the clear message that this type of behaviour will be met with a very serious consequence.

Brian Hoban and Fiona Ferguson