herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Man avoids jail for sexual assault on woman as she slept in bed after a party

Stephen McCarthy (23)
Stephen McCarthy (23)

A man who sexually assaulted a woman as she slept in her bed following a party has been given a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence.

Stephen McCarthy (23) initially told gardai when questioned that he "tripped and landed on top of" the victim.

McCarthy, of Esker Hills, Portlaoise pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual assault at a house in the city in June 2013.

Suspending the sentence, Judge Martin Nolan said it had been a "particularly disturbing event" for the woman and it was "reprehensible" that McCarthy did not make candid admissions to the gardai at the time.

However, he took account of McCarthy's guilty plea, his lack of any previous convictions and the fact that €2,000 in compensation had been accepted by the victim as a "token of remorse".

The judge also ruled that the press was free to name McCarthy but not identify the victim.

Judge Nolan remarked that McCarthy had travelled to Australia to work after the incident but returned when he was told the gardai were "looking for him".

He noted McCarthy had been in custody since December 7.

"The question I have to decide is, does Mr McCarthy deserve a further period of custody?" the judge said. "It seems to me by reason of the good mitigation that that type of sentence is not necessary."

Previously, Garda Mary Brophy agreed with the prosecution that the woman had gone to sleep in her bedroom at about 1.30am following the party and awoke later that night feeling "something weird".

McCarthy had his fingers in her vagina and was moving in to kiss her. She screamed and jumped out of bed.

Her sister came up to the room but found no one there. She went to another room and saw McCarthy there but suspected he was just pretending to be asleep.

He was later arrested and initially told gardai that he had tripped, landed on top of the victim and she had screamed.

He had been released without charge following his garda interviews and a few months later had left to work abroad.

As soon as he became aware he was to be charged, he returned home.

He co-operated and Gda Brophy became aware during interviews that he was "of limited intelligence".

Ashamed

The woman outlined in her victim impact statement that her life had been changed for ever in a way she had no control over. She said the idea that the safest place you could be was at home in your own bed had been taken away from her.

The defence said his client apologised and was deeply ashamed of himself.

McCarthy had been drinking all day, had little recollection of what happened and accepted the victim's account.

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