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.
Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
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.
GMIT warns partying students they are delaying return to campus
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Partying students have been told their actions have impacted GMIT’s plans to re-start practical classes on campus – and Gardaí are monitoring the city’s bus and train stations to catch those breaking the 5km travel restriction by returning home for the weekend.
College authorities said the current “extremely serious outbreak” of Covid-19 among students in Galway City was caused by a small minority who are “moving and mixing between different households”.
Following a meeting with Gardaí last week, GMIT contacted all students to clarify that because there are no ‘onsite’ classes, there should be no need to travel for educational purposes.
“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” students were told.
In a separate communication issued this week, the college’s Covid Officer appealed to students to abide by the rules.
“This outbreak has had an impact on our plans with regard to return to onsite practical work, with consequences for all students.
“We are appealing to all students to comply with all Covid restrictions and in doing so, to help ensure that those students who have to return to onsite practical work can do so,” the email read.
Many students from outside the city have opted to stay in their accommodation for access to better broadband.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more coverage of Covid figures and vaccinations, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.