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Wednesday 16 October 2019

Drunk reveller asked barmaid to marry him then groped her

Diogo Abbass de Cerqueira (30) was found guilty of assault but was spared jail and ordered to pay €2,500
Diogo Abbass de Cerqueira (30) was found guilty of assault but was spared jail and ordered to pay €2,500

A St Patrick's Day reveller sexually assaulted a Dublin bar worker by groping her after asking her to marry him.

Diogo Abbass de Cerqueira (30) left the young woman traumatised when he grabbed her between her legs as she collected glasses in a crowd outside a busy city centre pub.

The accused, an engineer and "educated, middle-class young man" from Brazil, denied intentionally touching the victim, saying he was drunk and must have accidentally fallen against her.

Convicting him but sparing him jail, Judge John Hughes said the assault followed "light, harmless banter".

Unacceptable

But he said the fact that it happened during St Patrick's Day celebrations did not make it "acceptable drunken behaviour".

"There are no circumstances in which it can be acceptable for a person, intoxicated or otherwise, to sexually assault another," he said.

The judge gave de Cerqueira a four-month suspended sentence and ordered him to pay €2,500 in compensation.

The accused, with an address at Capel Street, Dublin 7, had denied sexually assaulting the woman on St Patrick's Day this year.

The victim, a student, was working outside the bar, when she first encountered de Cerqueira, who was leaning against a wall, drinking from a can of energy drink.

"He came up to me and said: 'Oh, you are gorgeous, will you marry me?'," she said.

"In typical Irish humour, I said, 'Ah yeah'.

"He said 'when?', he said he was going back on the fifth of May. I said 'the fourth of May'."

She returned to collecting glasses and saw there was "an attempt to follow me".

"It wasn't a normal conversation… there was just something not right. I got a gut feeling that something was a bit odd."

Later, he was outside again as she collected glasses.

"He came towards me, he cupped his hand and touched me down below…," she said.

"I pushed him away, I said 'get the f**k off me, and don't f**king touch me'".

She saw him slouching and "didn't think he was fully there". She told her manager who called passing gardai.

In cross-examination, she told defence solicitor Kate McGhee she felt the accused's hand and believed it was intentional.

A co-worker said the victim was crying, "really pale and couldn't stop shaking", so she gave her chocolate "for the sugar".

A garda said the accused was slumped against the wall and he arrested him for being drunk.

De Cerqueira became "a dead weight" and help was needed to move him.

"To me, he had deliberately slumped himself on the ground in order to frustrate the arrest," another garda said in evidence.

Panic

In interview, the accused said he recalled talking to the victim and making a joke but did not remember touching her.

But he insisted: "I wouldn't do anything to a girl."

"If I touched her, it was probably because I was trying to keep myself standing… I'm not a bad person."

He had drunk vodka, beer and an energy drink.

In evidence, he repeated that he would not intentionally have touched the girl sexually.

"I never move onto girls like that," he said.

"I never try to impose my will onto anyone."

De Cerqueira did not think that the victim was lying, but he did not accept her "interpretation" that it was an intentional assault, Ms McGhee said.

"This had a massive impact on my mental health," the victim told the court.

She had to quit her job as she did not feel safe, and slept in her mother's bed for a week after the assault.

She had ongoing panic attacks and flashbacks that affected her sleep and college work.

It had also put a strain on her relationship with her partner, she said.

"We were unable to be together romantically for six months," she said.

"Since the event, I'm too nervous even to walk home.

"I feel physically sick thinking about what happened to me. Writing this statement is a struggle in itself."

De Cerqueira had no criminal record and was of "impeccable good character", Ms McGhee said.

The assault had "drastic consequences" for the victim", Judge Hughes said.

"She was busy at work, encountered the accused and engaged with him in light, harmless banter and was then sexually assaulted," he said.

"This is not and cannot be trivialised in any manner as some sort of drunken, acceptable behaviour, because it took place on St Patrick's Day at a pub full of people celebrating."

He took account of the accused's remorse.

On condition of the suspension of the sentence, the accused must undergo probationary supervision for six months and stay away from the victim.

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