This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 6 °C Monday 17 February, 2020
Advertisement

Cork hospital criticised after teen girl with life-threatening injuries sexually assaulted in ward

A 63-year-old man was given an 18-month suspended sentence in a Cork court yesterday.

Image: Shutterstock/Pisannoah

A JUDGE HAS criticised the management of a Cork hospital after he was told that a teenage girl undergoing treatment for life-threatening injuries was sexually assaulted by a 63-year-old male patient with whom she was sharing a ward. 

Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that the assault on a 17-year-old girl at Cork University Hospital (CUH) by Andrew O’Donovan from Butlersgift, Drimoleague was only interrupted because his heart monitor began to accelerate.

A nurse spotted the change in the monitor reading and went to the ward to investigate. She thought that the West Cork man was having a heart attack. 

O’Donovan pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the teenager on May 14th 2018. He failed to appear in court yesterday for the hearing and was sentenced in his absence. 

Judge Sean O’Donnabhain heard that the 17-year-old victim in the case had sustained life-threatening injuries and was being treated in CUH. She was admitted to a ward in CUH which also contained three adult men.

One of the men was O’Donovan whom the court heard approached the victim in the early hours of the morning of May 14, 2018 and sexually assaulted her while she lay in bed. 

She couldn’t reach the emergency call button arising out of the seriousness of her injuries. A nurse disrupted the assault when she came to the ward amid concerns that O’Donovan’s heart monitor was racing.

The court heard of O’Donovan’s schizophrenic tendencies. He has been engaging with mental health services since the 1980s.

Victim impact statement

In her victim impact statement, the teenager recalled the harrowing details of her ordeal. 

She said that she hoped her experience would force the paediatric age in hospitals to be raised from sixteen to 18. She said that she was left devastated by the incident. 

“My mental health has been shattered by this. I was petrified and helpless. I thought I would be safe in hospital. I never thought I would be in any danger.”

She said the traumatic incident had left her fearful of older men. She also finds it difficult to sleep and suffers from panic attacks. 

The teenager said her studies had also been adversely affected. As a result she had not been able to undertake her desired college course. 

However, she said O’Donovan’s guilty plea had been a source of relief and had vindicated her account of the incident. 

She added that media reports on the assault had been a source of anxiety to her as she was afraid of being identified and known as “the girl who was sexually assaulted in CUH”.

Meanwhile, Judge Sean O’Donnabhain questioned the management of the ward system at CUH that allowed a young girl to be placed in close proximity to a man with serious mental health issues spanning several decades. 

Judge O’Donnabhain said that it was “a very, very troubling case”.

“You have to question the management of the ward system at CUH that allowed a young girl to be placed in close proximity to a man who was known to have a history of schizophrenic tendencies and a long psychiatric history,” he said.

The judge said the hospital management and supervision involved had to be queried. 

He insisted that the hospital management needed to “buck up.”

The court was told that the nurse went to the ward because she thought that Mr O’Donovan might have been having a heart attack. 

Initially when questioned about the incident O’Donovan claimed he was just trying to shake hands with the girl to wish her well.

O’Donovan was charged before Cork District Court with sexually assaulting the teenage girl in Cork University Hospital on 14 May 2018.

Detective Garda Caroline Keogh of the Cork Protective Services Unit gave evidence of arrest, charge and caution.

She said the man denied the charge put to him, replying: “I did nothing to that girl, I just shook her hand.”

However, he pleaded guilty to a sexual assault charge when the case came before the Circuit Court last November.

Assault

Detective Garda Keogh said the young girl awoke at 5am to discover O’Donovan standing by her hospital bed.

O’Donovan asked the girl her her name before suggesting that they go for a drink or the cinema. After looking at her hospital name bracelet, he then began stroking her arm. He then attempted to stroke her breasts outside her clothes. 

When the teenager placed her hand over her chest to protect her breasts, he stroked her stomach outside her clothes. He then stroked her vagina outside her clothing.

When he stopped touching the young girl he said to her: “Promise me you will write to me?”

Judge O’Donnabhain was told the defendant had a long history of mental health issues. 

O’Donovan became a widower last year. He is without previous convictions.

 The court heard that he lives a simple life largely keeping to himself and tending to his animals. 

Taking the guilty plea in to account and the history of mental illness in the case Judge O’Donnabhain imposed an 18 month prison sentence. He suspended the sentence in its entirety. 

The man had attended court in the morning but failed to show for his sentencing hearing yesterday afternoon.  

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

Olivia Kelleher

Read next:

COMMENTS