Sleeping woman sexually assaulted, court hears

By Ann Healy
March 11, 2020

A 28-year-old man who sexually assaulted a woman as she slept in a friend’s house, went to his parish priest to look for guidance before telling his family about what he had done.

Brian Finnegan, from Kilsallagh, Williamstown, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court last October to sexually assaulting the then 22-year-old woman in a house at University Road on October 15, 2017.

The Director of Public Prosecutions had initially directed the charge could be dealt with at District Court level if Finnegan entered a guilty plea, but he pleaded not guilty when the matter came before Galway District Court in 2018 and was sent forward for trial to the higher court.

Finnegan appeared before the Circuit Court last October for trial where he changed his plea to guilty when the charge was put to him.

Sentence was adjourned for the preparation of a victim impact statement and for a probation report on Finnegan.

Garda Vicky Duggan told the sentence hearing the young woman had returned to her friend’s house following a girls’ night out and had gone to sleep in her friend’s bed alone.

She woke up during the night to find Finnegan on top of her.  She tried to push him off and get up, but he pushed her back onto the bed before sexually assaulting her.

She shouted for help when she saw Finnegan attempting to take off his boxer shorts and managed to push him off her as her friend came into the room to assist her.  Finnegan was told to leave the house immediately afterwards.

He was subsequently interviewed by Garda Duggan and made certain admissions.

“He admitted he didn’t know the woman, and had “tried it on” but nothing else happened,” she said.

The woman became upset at times while reading her victim impact statement to the court.  She said she still struggled to deal with what happened to her.

“He took advantage of me.  I woke up to the horror of him trying to undress me against my own free will.  I was living a nightmare, I cried so much that night,” she said.

The incident had left her feeling angry, sad, lonely and sick.  She said she had become a burden to her family and boyfriend and she was always fearful that people would judge her if they knew she had been sexually assaulted.

“I get angry and sad when I hear the words ‘sexual assault’ and ‘rape’,” she sobbed.

The woman said to her attacker that she wanted him to think every day about what he had done to her.

Defence barrister, Michael Clancy, apologised to the woman on behalf of his client and assured her that he did think every day of what he did that night and felt ashamed.

“He was so distraught about this that before telling his family, he went to his parish priest and he gave him guidance to deal with this in the appropriate manner,” Mr Clancy said.

A medical report from Finnegan’s GP was handed into court, stating he suffered from low mood since the incident and was on medication.

A letter from his employer at a Roscommon meat factory along with a “glowing tribute” from his former football club, and a letter from the parish priest were also handed in.

“He admitted it was wrong straight away and on the night he himself began to cry on realising what had just occurred,” Mr Clancy said of his client.

Judge Rory McCabe said this had been a reckless and unsolicited attempt by the accused to engage in sexual contact with an innocent victim who woke to find him on top of her.

“His best explanation is that he was drunk and was ‘trying it on’ and that he didn’t know the victim,” the judge noted.

He said that, thankfully, due to the victim’s quick action and the intervention of her friend, the attack ended quickly.

Judge McCabe placed the headline sentence – before aggravating and mitigating circumstances were taken into account – at three years.

However, on hearing the probation service had yet to complete a second, more detailed risk assessment on Finnegan, he decided to adjourn finalisation of sentence to May 22.

“There are no winners in this case and the victim is justifiably outraged at what happened to her,” he said.

Noting Finnegan was already on the Sex Offenders’ Register following his guilty plea last October, Judge McCabe said that was a significant penalty in itself but it was justified for what he described as Finnegan’s “grossly offensive conduct”.


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