A TIPPERARY MAN who sexually assaulted his friend as she lay asleep beside him has been jailed for three years after a judge said it would “send out the wrong signal” to impose a non-custodial sentence.
Justice Tony Hunt resisted defence counsel submissions that the man be dealt with in a non-custodial manner, saying: “He’s done something very, very wrong.”
“People are entitled to feel that when they are in their house, their own bed, they are safe from molestation,” the Central Criminal Court judge said.
Handing down a sentence of four years with the final year suspended today, Justice Hunt said the man “had the trust and confidence of his victim” who invited him into her home.
The man breached that trust, along with the woman’s bodily integrity and hospitality, the judge said.
The 50-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect his victim, pleaded guilty to one count of sexually assaulting the woman at her Tipperary home on 7 September 2015. It is an offence that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.
The court heard he sexually assaulted the woman, a long-term friend, in her bed in the middle of the night after the pair had been socialising together the night before. He put his fingers inside her and tried to have sex with her, the court heard.
The woman only became aware something had happened when she woke up the next morning to find the naked man beside her and her underwear removed.
A local garda detective told Paul Burns SC, prosecuting, the then 43-year-old woman had been out celebrating the All-Ireland hurling final when she met the man in a bar and they continued socialising together. The pair had known each other since they were very young.
The man asked the woman if he could stay over in her house that night and she agreed. She told him to sleep on the couch, but she woke up the next morning to find him in bed beside her. She told him to get out before contacting friends and then the gardaí, who took her to hospital. An examination confirmed the presence of the man’s semen on her body.
The man presented himself to gardaí and admitted he tried to have sex with the woman but did not penetrate her. He has 10 previous convictions, including larceny, drink driving and public order offences.
Victim impact statement
In a victim impact statement handed into court, the woman said the incident had severely affected her. She said she had lost confidence and now felt isolated, depressed and withdrawn. She had to give up work and had lost a lot of friends.
The man handed up a letter of apology to the woman, in which he said: “I don’t know what came over me.”
Defence counsel Colman Cody SC said his client had engaged in a breach of trust in the context of the friendship the pair once enjoyed.
He noted the man had taken it upon himself to go to gardaí shortly after the incident and that he made immediate admissions. It was an opportunistic crime, he added.
Cody said his client had no serious convictions and that this had been a “chastening experience”. He argued a first-time custodial sentence would be harder for a man of his age and he urged the judge to consider imposing a non-custodial sentence.
Justice Hunt declined to do so, saying: “It would send out the wrong signal to victims and the wrong signal to potential offenders.”
He ordered the man to have no contact with his victim, either directly or indirectly, for five years.