A BANDON man (51) grabbed a teenage girl as she walked passed him in the afternoon in a busy city centre store in Cork city, a court heard last week.
Michael Toner from MacSwiney Quay in Bandon had denied the sexual assault in Penneys on Patrick Street in Cork but a jury convicted him of the offence at Cork Circuit Criminal Court last week.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said: ‘This is a somewhat unusual case of sexual assault, happening in a public place, in a store, in daylight business hours and where there was no previous contact between the parties. He had no knowledge of this girl and there was nothing to bring them together, other than passing each other in the shop. He dropped his hand on the girl and touched her intimately.’
Judge Ó Donnabháin added: ‘He admitted he had contact with her, but he denied there was any sexual intent. The jury found otherwise. The girl is correct in her account of what happened to her. She was shocked and confused as to why it happened, it was so unexpected.’
Det Gda Brian Murphy said the man was confronted by the injured party’s mother in the store but he walked away and was not arrested until a later date.
The teenager said she was in town with her mother that day on July 3rd 2018 when the man walked into her path and grabbed her private parts.
‘I was very upset and crying. In the beginning I was thinking about it all the time,’ she said.
At the end of her statement she said: ‘I hope he would be seen for who he is and for what he done.’
She thanked Garda Don McCarthy, who investigated the case, and the Support After Crimes Services for their support.
Defence barrister Niamh Stewart said the man had never been before the court before. ‘He has severe depression. He has found (being remanded in custody) very difficult,’ she added.
While the defendant has a small number of previous convictions, they were described as ‘minor matters’ and none related to this type of behaviour.
Ms Stewart characterised the offence as being ‘at the lower end’ of sexual assault scale, given it consisted of touching the girl outside her clothes. The Director of Public Prosecutions had decided that the case could be dealt with at Cork District Court, but Toner opted for trial by judge and jury at the Circuit Court.
Ms Stewart said the defendant had a job waiting for him on his release from prison, and had family support against the background of him suffering from depression.
‘He is on medication. He will be on the Sex Offenders Register. His life is basically turned upside down,’ she said.
Judge Ó Donnabháin imposed an 18-month jail sentence backdated to when he went into custody after the jury’s guilty verdict on February 11th.
The judge suspended the balance of the sentence.
A probation report found the accused to be a low risk of re-offending. The judge said: ‘In relation to victim awareness, he has some awareness of what he did wrong.’