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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

Hero’s welcome following rescue of two women on Galway Bay

Stephen Corrigan

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Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan, who rescued Sara Feeney and Ellen Glynn off Inis Oirr island, on their arrival back at the Galway RNLI Lifeboat Station at Galway Docks. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The miraculous rescue on Galway Bay yesterday of two young women from Knocknacarra brought 15 long hours of searching to a euphoric conclusion, as cousins Sara Feeney (23) and Ellen Glynn (17) were brought safely to shore.

A major search and rescue operation was launched after the pair went missing from Furbo Beach on Wednesday night, when they were swept away by a sudden wind while paddle boarding.

Claddagh fisherman and former Lifeboat shore crew member Patrick Oliver and his 18-year-old son Morgan joined the search early on Thursday morning and were the heroes of the hour after they discovered the two women on their boards, clinging to a lobster pot about two miles south-west of Inis Oírr, where despite their ordeal, they were described as “ok, but shaken”.

In the face of torrential rain and high winds overnight, both women had drifted almost 20 miles out to sea, but amazingly neither required serious medical attention.

Sara’s mother, Helen Feeney, raised the alarm shortly after 9pm on Wednesday evening when she noticed the pair missing as she walked their dog along the shore.

Sara, a daughter of Helen and Bernard Tonge, and Ellen, daughter Deirdre and well-known former captain of Galway United Johnny Glynn, were both said to be in good spirits at the hospital yesterday afternoon.

One relative told the Galway City Tribune that the family was “utterly humbled by the generosity of people” who had took part in the search and said, “unbelievable doesn’t even begin to describe it”.

“Thank you from all the family to everyone who helped, words will never express our gratitude.”
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

Photo: Patrick Oliver and his son Morgan, who rescued Sara Feeney and Ellen Glynn off Inis Oirr island, on their arrival back at the Galway RNLI Lifeboat Station at Galway Docks. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway farm operators fall fowl of locals

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Neighbours of Mad Yolk Farm have asked Galway City Council to determine whether planning permission is required for a portable chicken coop earmarked for the land in Roscam.

This week, Mad Yolk Farm has indicated that it will be adding chickens to the site, which has already been the subject of planning enforcement by the local authority.

In a Facebook post, the operators said they are planning to rear organic chickens on site, with neighbours fearing as many as 450 birds in the chicken ‘caravan’.

“Our chicken caravan is now built and our beaked ladies will arrive in eight days. We’ll be moving the hens onto fresh grass each day and they’ll be free to forage for insects and take mud baths. They’ll be free to behave like a chicken should,” the business said on social media.

It has prompted a neighbour of the property to write the Council to formally ask for a declaration “whether the work/development described in the form is or is not development or is or is not exempted development under Section 5 of the Planning and Development Act”.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Cold water poured on Spanish Arch ‘bushing’ sprinkler plan

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council has poured cold water on a suggestion that it should install water sprinklers to deter ‘bushing’ at city centre hotspots for outdoor drinking, such as Spanish Arch.

Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) this week said the local authority should examine providing sprinklers, to deter bushing, after Spanish Arch and Middle Arch were packed with hundreds of revellers during the sunshine last weekend, and the areas were littered with alcohol bottles and cans.

Cllr Hoare said large crowds were prohibited from gathering outside due to Covid-19 social distancing guidelines, and if the partying continued “Galway will be the next county to be locked down”.

He said CCTV cameras should be installed at Spanish Arch and Middle Arch and added: “Galway City Council should consider installing sprinklers as a long-term solution.”

However, the City Council said it was not its intention to install sprinklers.

“It’s so hot at the moment, if you put out a sprinkler anywhere in Galway, people would just dance under it. We’re so unused to this muggy heat, that if you did that (installed sprinklers), on top of your 12-pack of Bacardi Breezers, or whatever it is young people drink these days, you’d have the biggest wet t-shirt competition this side of Ibiza – people would just dance under them. No, we have no plans for sprinklers,” remarked a City Council spokesperson.

He said the Council was unaware of a separate suggestion – announced by Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbard on social media – that certain city areas be exempted from the street drinking bylaws, to allow them to be monitored and controlled.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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