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Man pleads guilty to the defilement of a child

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The case of a 22-year-old married man who pleaded guilty to having sex in a fast-food restaurant toilet with an underage schoolgirl three years ago may now become a test case following the intervention of the Rape Crisis Centre.

The man, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the victim, pleaded guilty to defilement of a child aged under 17 years of age, when he appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last year.

The plea was accepted by the prosecution at the time.

He was placed under the supervision of the probation service for a year and the matter was adjourned to last week for up-to-date reports on him and on the victim.

Detective Sgt Willie Beirne told the sentence hearing in March 2014 that the girl made a complaint to Gardai that she had been sexually assaulted by the accused in a toilet in McDonald’s in Shop Street on April 8, 2012.

She was 16 years old at the time and was very distressed by what had happened.

She said she met the accused while drinking in Eyre Square with friends and he tried to lure her down an alleyway but she refused to go with him. He then followed her down Shop Street and into the toilet in McDonald’s where, she said, she allowed him kiss her.

She said he then followed her into the cubicle and she shouted for help but he told her to shut up before having sex with her.

The accused was arrested a short time later and denied any involvement.

However, in a second interview he claimed they had had consensual sex. He claimed he thought she was 17 or 18 and when told she was 16, he denied having sex with her at all.

Sgt Beirne said the girl was in secondary school at the time and had very little parental support. He read out a victim impact statement on behalf of the girl who was present in court with a friend.

In her statement, the girl said she had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the sexual assault.  She was very distressed and upset and was still afraid to come into the city for fear of meeting her assailant.

She became severely depressed after the attack and took an overdose.

Her counsellor said at the time that even with counselling, she would continue to suffer well into the future.

Sgt Beirne said the accused had been living in a hostel at the time and was hanging around the streets. He had eight previous convictions for public order offences, burglary, possession of knives and for thefts.

Mr Paul Flannery SC, defending, said last year that his client was now married with one child. He asked for sentence to be deferred.

In light of a positive probation report on the accused last year and on the recommendation of the probation service, Judge Rory McCabe adjourned sentence for a year and placed the accused under the supervision of the service in the interim.

However, a letter handed into court last week from the Rape Crisis Centre and an up-to-date probation report on the accused changed the complexion of the case for Judge McCabe.

While the contents of the letter and the report were not revealed in open court, Judge McCabe said he could not finalise sentence after reading the documents.

Sgt Willie Byrne confirmed to the judge that the girl had attended one appointment at the Rape Crisis Centre but was unable to continue with counselling.

“She is still severely traumatised by what happened to her and she’s still in a very bad place,” he said.

Recalling the evidence at the initial hearing last year, Mr Flannery said it had been the girl’s case in the Book of Evidence that she felt she had been raped.

However, the video evidence from the toilet area (outside the cubicle), he said, showed a different scenario and based on that it was agreed last year between the prosecution and the defence that his client would plead guilty to having sex with an underage girl and that was accepted by the prosecution.

There was no suggestion at the time, he said, that his client had raped the girl and his client had said it was consensual.

Mr Flannery said that in light of the developments (contained in the letter from the Rape Crisis Centre regarding the victim), he found himself at a disadvantage because he was now faced with evidence that put a different ‘colour’ on the case; something that had been taken out of the equation at the start by agreement with the prosecution.

Adjourning sentence to November, Judge McCabe said an unrelated issue had been raised in the accused man’s probation report and that, coupled with the most recent letter from the Rape Crisis Centre, which, he said, was “an opening gambit in what might be a test case down the road” meant he could not finalise the matter just yet.

The judge said that now that the game had commenced, he believed the issues raised in the most recent documents before the court had to “play out” first before justice could take its course in November.

Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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