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Father jailed for sex attack on daughter’s six-year-old friend



A 45-year-old Galway man has been sentenced to five years in prison with the final two years suspended for sexually assaulting his daughter’s best friend during a Hallowe’en sleep-over at his home.

Gerry Hopkins, 8 Pairc na gCaor, Moycullen, pleaded guilty when he first appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in October, 2016 to sexually assaulting the then 6-years-old victim on the night of October 27, 2015.  The case was adjourned to May 2017 for the preparation of reports.

The girl’s father read his and his wife’s victim impact statement to the court last year in which he said Hopkins had shown their daughter no mercy during the 30-minute attack.

The little girl had been at a Hallowe’en party in Hopkins’ home and was allowed to sleep over with her best friend as both sets of parents had been good friends prior to the incident.

The girls were asleep in bed that night when Hopkins got into the bed beside them, leaned over his own daughter and subjected the victim to a prolonged sexual assault.

The little girl woke and then pretended to be asleep while Hopkins sexually assaulted her.

“She cried out in pain when he began to hurt her. He waited for her to stop crying before continuing to again assault her forcefully. The assault lasted 30 minutes,” Garda Paul Duffy told the court last year. He described Hopkins as “a bit of a loner who had no friends”.

The child told her mother about the assault when she was getting her ready for bed the following night.

Hopkins initially denied assaulting the child during two Garda interviews. He said his memory was vague due to his intoxication on the night but he finally admitted he could see no reason why the child would make up the allegation.

The child’s father became upset when he recalled how his daughter had to suffer the added trauma of being stripped naked and examined and questioned by strangers after the complaint was made.

“He reached over his own sleeping daughter to sexually assault our child. He showed her no sympathy or mercy and when she stopped crying he abused her again,” the tearful father said.

The man said his daughter could not sleep alone anymore and she whimpers in her sleep and pushes him away when he tries to comfort her.

He said Hopkins stole his daughter’s ability to trust adults and her innocence and trust in the world had gone. She had told her parents to tell Hopkins that he had hurt her a lot and scared her.

In contrast, Hopkins’ partner told the court last year he was an “extremely kind, warm and loving person” and a good father.

The court heard Hopkins had to move out of the family home following the complaint while the child protection agency, Tusla, carried out a risk assessment of his own children’s safety. It found his children were not at risk of abuse and he was allowed to return home.

Placing Hopkins on the Sex Offender’s Register, Judge Rory McCabe indicated a five-year sentence with two suspended was the appropriate sanction.

However, noting that a risk assessment of Hopkins by the probation service was incomplete, he deferred sentence for one year – to last week’s court – on condition Hopkins attend all probation service appointments in the interim and comply with all of its directions.

Prosecuting barrister, Geri Silke, told the sentence hearing last week that the girl’s parents wanted Hopkins named in the media.

John Kiely SC, defending, said Hopkins was no longer drinking and had abided by all of the bail conditions.  He was also attending a Safer Lives sex offenders programme in Dublin once a week.

Judge McCabe said a custodial sentence was unavoidable given the “gross betrayal of trust and breach of friendship” by the accused.

Imposing the five-year sentence on Hopkins, the judge said the gravity of the offence required a punitive element and that rehabilitation thus far would be reflected in the suspension of the final two years of that sentence.

The final two years were suspended on condition Hopkins not reoffend and come under the supervision of the probation service for 18 months post release from prison. He is to complete the Safer Lives programme and comply with all directions of the probation service.


Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault



Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Council turns down controversial phone mast plan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Galway City Council has refused an application by Eircom to erect a 12-metre telecoms mast in a housing estate in Knocknacarra.

The local authority turned down the company’s application for planning permission to install the structure in the heart of Drom Óir over concerns that it would create a visual obstruction in a residential area – and would have a detrimental impact on property prices.

Eircom had also sought retention to keep a concrete foundation for the mast in situ after it was forced to abandon works earlier this year, amid protests from residents in Drom Óir and Leitir Burca. This was also rejected.

City planners issued the company with a warning letter in April to cease works after contractors on site drew the ire of nearby residents, who accused Eircom of seeking to install the mast ‘by stealth’.

A total of 26 letters of objection were submitted to the Council from residents of the two estate.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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