A JUDGE has said he is troubled by the case of a West Cork man, with no previous history of sexual misbehaviour, and, as a result, he ordered a probation report to try and understand why he sexually assaulted a girl as she walked with her mother through a city store.
Michael Toner (51) from MacSwiney Quay, Bandon had denied the sexual assault of the 14-year-old girl at Penneys in Cork city centre on July 3rd 2018, but a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court last week found him guilty of the assault, after deliberating for over an hour.
The injured party said in a victim impact statement (delivered by Garda Don McCarthy) that Toner had grabbed her by her private parts without warning, as she walked through Penneys with her mother during a shopping trip.
‘I was very upset and crying – in the beginning I was thinking about it all the time,’ said the girl, who revealed that she used to love to go shopping with her mother, but now was apprehensive about going into Cork as a result of the sexual assault.
Defence barrister Niamh Stewart BL pleaded for leniency for her client, pointing out that he had no previous convictions for sexual offences.
She also said the sexual assault was ‘at the lower end of the scale’ for such offences, involving touching through the girl’s clothing.
She said the DPP had taken a similar view as she (the DPP) had consented to the matter being dealt with in the District Court, but Toner had opted for trial by judge and jury and that was why the case was now in the Circuit Court.
She also pointed out that Toner lived in Bandon for most of his life and he was a loner who suffered from severe depression. He had already been in custody for a week since his conviction by the jury.
She also pleaded for leniency on the basis that Toner would now end up on the Sex Offenders Register.
She also also pointed out that he would lose his accommodation if he was being jailed, and was also at risk of losing his job on foot of any jail sentence.
Judge Brian O’Callaghan said that it was a very upsetting case for the young victim, particularly given her age. He also said the court was as impressed with her evidence as was the jury as he fully acknowledged the trauma that the assault had caused her.
However, Judge O’Callaghan said he was perplexed by the fact that Toner should sexually assault a young girl in this manner given that he proffered no explanation for his behaviour and had no previous record of engaging in such sexual misconduct.
‘The court is troubled that a man of 51 years of age should, without any explanation whatsoever, do this to a young girl .... He has never done anything of this nature before, in his 51 years on the planet – I am anxious to find out where this offence came from,’ said Judge O’ Callaghan.
Describing the sexual assault as ‘a horrible incident’, the judge remanded Toner in custody to allow for a preparation of a probation report which he believed could assist the court in sentencing.
He adjourned the matter to April 22nd.