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Man who sexually assaulted woman at festival jailed for ten months

Judge Nolan noted it could be said Hennessy had “almost perfect mitigation”.

Image: PA Archive/PA Images

A MAN WHO sexually assaulted a “seriously drunk” and “almost unconscious” woman at a festival has been jailed for ten months.

Steven Hennessy (38), who was also highly intoxicated, was observed by a nearby group to be putting his hand inside the trousers of the woman who “looked like she was about to pass out”.

The victim, who is entitled to anonymity, only became aware of what had happened when she woke up in a medical hut and found out a man had been arrested for sexually assaulting her.

Hennessy, formerly of Hollybank Road, Drumcondra, Dublin and originally from Carlow, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual assault of the woman at a location in Dublin in September 2016. Hennessy has no previous convictions.

Today, Judge Martin Nolan noted the victim was “seriously drunk and in an almost unconscious state”.He said Hennessy had put his hand under her clothes by her vaginal area and digitally penetrated her.

He noted that Hennessy was also “severely intoxicated” and was not fit to be interviewed by gardai until the following day. He said this did not help Hennessy and commented that people were responsible for their acts, drunk or not.

Judge Nolan noted it could be said Hennessy had “almost perfect mitigation”. He outlined his co-operation and admissions, followed up by a guilty plea and expression of “true remorse”.

He said Hennessy had a good work record and had lost his job as a result of his behaviour. He noted Hennessy had brought a substantial sum of money to court as a token of remorse and was unlikely to reoffend.

Judge Nolan said he had to decide if he deserved an immediate custodial sentence despite this.

He said the general principle was that a custodial sentence was always mandated in such cases unless there were “exceptional circumstances”. He said he did not find such circumstances in this case. He said “exceptional circumstances” might include “extreme youth or something like that”.

The judge said Hennessy was a mature man when he committed the offence. He accepted that he would probably not have committed the offence except for his intoxicated state, but noted “inebriation and intoxication affords no defence”.

Judge Nolan imposed a sentence of two years imprisonment and said by reason of the mitigation he was going to suspend the final 14 months on strict conditions.

He said, in relation to the €10,000 brought to court by Hennessy, that as he was not disposed to impose a non custodial sentence, he was not going to deal with the issue of compensation or financial penalty. He said that was a matter for the civil courts.

Judge Nolan said the offence had been a “reprehensible act” despite the excellent mitigation.

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Fiona Ferguson

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