A JURY deliberated for less than 40 minutes at Castlebar Circuit Court on Monday last before returning a verdict of ‘not guilty’ in a case in which a 22-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged with sexually assaulting a young woman at a house party in Mayo in March of 2004.
The complainant in the case alleged that the accused man kissed her and felt her private parts as she lay asleep. She said that she had been at a friend’s 21st party and had returned with a group of friends to a house party where the alleged incident occurred. She felt tired and lay down on a bed upstairs and fell asleep. She was fully clothed apart from her shoes, which she had removed.
She said that she was in a deep sleep when she felt someone on her right shoulder. She woke up to find a man kissing her on the lips and face and he had his hand inside her underwear. She moved her head away from him and she alleged that he grabbed her left hand and forced it on his private parts.
The complainant said she was in total shock. She pushed the defendant away and as she did so, she realised that she knew him. She said ‘oh, my God’. She looked around the room and there was another man in the bed asleep. She put her shoes on and went downstairs and left to go home.
The next day she received a phone call from a friend. When she answered the accused man was on the line and she alleged that he asked her had something happened between them the previous night. When she said that something did happen he said that he didn’t remember anything because he had taken a lot of drink and had also taken drugs.
The complainant told the court that she met the accused man on two occasions after the alleged assault.
In reply to Martin Giblin SC, for the defence, she said that she didn’t make a statement until the following May because she didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’ in the area she lived in. “It was very traumatic. Everyone knows everyone and I knew what would happen and I tried to convince myself it didn’t happen but I knew that I had been violated and when I’d return home from college at weekends I’d see him around. I knew what happened was wrong,’’ she said.
The defendant denied the allegations and said that while there was some kissing involved, it was the complainant who instigated it and he denied that he had felt the woman’s private parts. He said the kissing had lasted a matter of seconds. He denied ever apologising to the complainant because he said he had nothing to apologise for. He said he never taken drugs or would have nothing to do with them as he played a lot of sport. He admitted that on the night in question he had drank about five or six bottles of lager.
He was tired and went to lie down on the bed. There were two people on the bed and both were asleep. He lay on the top of the duvet. The accused man said the complainant started to kiss him but when she realised that he wasn’t her boyfriend she stopped and left. He said he had no idea why she had made the allegations.
In reply to John Jordan, for the DPP, he said he was not attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the jury. He said the complainant had instigated the kissing.
Mr Jordan asked the accused man was he serious in asking the jury to believe that a woman woke up from her sleep and immediately started to kiss him. The accused man said that was what happened.
“She thought that I was her boyfriend and when she realised that I wasn’t she left the room. It just lasted a matter of seconds,’’ he said. He denied Mr Jordan’s assertions that he was attempting to ‘brazen it out’ in court and he said that the entire case had a serious effect on him and at one stage he required medication to help him sleep. He said he was traumatised by the entire incident.
After summing up by counsel for the defence and the prosecution, the jury of seven women and five men were directed by Judge Raymond Groarke. Thirty-seven minutes later they returned with a verdict of ‘not guilty’.