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Sex with schoolgirl man gets two years’ jail

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A then 21-year-old man who had sex in a fast-food restaurant toilet with a vulnerable 16-year-old schoolgirl has been sentenced to two years in prison, with the final year suspended.

Ethan Ward, who is now aged 25 and a father of two, of 27 Luí na Gréine, Western Distributor Road, Knocknacarra, pleaded guilty to defilement of a child aged under 17 years of age, at McDonald’s in Shop Street on April 8, 2012, when he first appeared before Galway Circuit Criminal Court in 2014.

He was placed under the supervision of the probation service for a year and the matter was adjourned to July 2015 for up-to-date reports on him and on the victim.

Detective Sergeant Willie Beirne told the initial sentence hearing in March, 2014 the girl made a complaint to Gardaí that she had been sexually assaulted by the accused in a toilet cubicle.

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

She said she met Ward for the first time 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 a 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 consensual sex. He claimed he thought she was 17 or 18 and when told she was 16, he denied having sex with her.

Sgt Beirne said the girl was in secondary school at the time. She was vulnerable and had very little parental support. He read out a victim impact statement on behalf of the girl who was present in court at the time 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, two years on, she 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.

Paul Flannery SC, defending, said at the March 2014 hearing that his client was married with one child. He asked for sentence to be deferred.

On the recommendation of the probation service, Judge Rory McCabe adjourned sentence to July 2015, and placed the accused under the supervision of the service.

However, a letter handed into court in July 2015 from the Rape Crisis Centre and a negative 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.

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 last year.

Recalling the evidence at the initial hearing in 2014, Mr Flannery said it had been the girl’s view in the Book of Evidence that she felt she had been raped.

However, the video evidence from the toilet area, he said, showed a different scenario and based on that it, was agreed at the time between the prosecution and the defence teams that Ward 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, at all times, said no force was involved and 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.

Judge McCabe adjourned sentence to last November, but it emerged then that Ward still refusing to co-operate or engage in any way with the probation service and he was given one final chance to do so with sentence being deferred to May 4 and again to last week.

Sgt Beirne told the court last week the victim was too afraid to come to court, but he read out a up-to-date impact statement, taken from her last month.

In it, the girl says she is still unable to go for counselling as she has lost all trust in people.

“I hate my body. I feel like it’s not mine any more.

“I’m scared to go places on my own. I always want someone with me, just so I feel safe.

“I try to harm myself and I’ve tried so many times to take my own life, just to try and take the hurt away and the memories.

“It’s always on my mind and my life isn’t my own anymore.

“I don’t want anybody touching me or even have their arms around me as it just brings me back to that night.

“I’ve left myself scarred for something that I never ever asked for.

“My whole life isn’t mine anymore.  I’m not the same happy person I used to be.

“I just wish I could wake up and this would all be one big horrible dream,” the girl said in her statement.

Mr Flannery told the court Ward’s wife had just given birth to their second child.

He said Ward had been smoking cannabis for many years before moving on to heroin and he was now coming to the end of a sentence for a drugs offence, he said.

Mr Flannery said that if the case had gone to trial the CCTV evidence would have been shown and, if it was accepted, then what occurred in the toilet area had all the appearance of being a consensual act, despite what the victim saying she had been raped.

Prosecuting barrister, Conor Fahy, said the maximum sentence for this type of offence was five years.

Judge McCabe said the set of circumstances surrounding this offence placed it at the lower end of the scale of gravity and the headline sentence was two years and six months.

Given that Ward had pleaded guilty, the judge said he was entitled to six months’ credit for that and the sentence now stood at two years.

Judge McCabe said sentence had been adjourned last year and again two weeks ago to give Ward a final opportunity to address his addiction issues and it appeared from the latest report that he had just now started to do that – attending an appointment for the first time – the day before the sentence hearing.

The judge then suspended the final year of the two-year sentence for one year, placing Ward under the supervision of the probation service on his release for one year.

CITY TRIBUNE

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

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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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CITY TRIBUNE

Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault

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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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CITY TRIBUNE

Council turns down controversial phone mast plan

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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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