Limerick man jailed for two years after sexual act with vulnerable person

Central Criminal Court

A MAN who “picked up” a woman with a learning disability in Limerick City before bringing her back to his home has been jailed for two years for engaging in a sexual act with a protected person.

Peter Guerin (65), of Cois Sruthain, Croom, County Limerick, had never met the woman who travelled to Limerick from sheltered accommodation on April 30, 2018, with the intention of getting a train to Galway.

The court heard that the woman was considered a “protected person” under legislation due to her mild intellectual disability. A psychologist’s report indicated that the woman was “not concrete in her thinking and would struggle to protect herself in the absence of immediate support”.

The report added that the woman “lacks emotional independence, was suggestable, and very vulnerable to exploitation”.

Mr Guerin pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to engaging in a sexual act with a protected person on the date in question. His plea was accepted by the Director of Public Prosecution on the basis that he was reckless as to whether the woman was a protected person.

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Mr Justice Tony Hunt viewed a video of the woman giving her victim impact statement to specialist Gardaí during an earlier sitting last November.

He said that it was “immediately obvious to me” and should have been obvious to Mr Guerin “that he was dealing with someone with significant limitations”. He said it is clear that the woman has struggled in society and is a person who should be protected in law. He said Mr Guerin had effectively “picked up” the woman.

He accepted that “ultimately sense prevailed” and Mr Guerin “thought the better of proceeding any further with his escapade” and returned the woman to a Garda station.

Justice Hunt accepted that the plea was given on the basis of recklessness but added that “I am satisfied that her difficulties ought to have been obvious. He must have known fairly quickly that he was dealing with someone with these difficulties.”

The judge set a headline sentence of five years and said he believed that a custodial sentence was warranted on the basis that the law exists to protect vulnerable members of society and that “the complainant was without a doubt in that classification”.

Justice Hunt accepted that Mr Guerin had offended late in life, had no previous convictions, and had been of positive good character to date. He said, with people such as Mr Guerin, “the sting in the punishment lies in the closing of the prison door behind them”.

He accepted that “considerable weight” should be given to Mr Guerin’s guilty plea considering the complainant’s limitation and how difficult a trial would have been for her, adding that a prison term would be “a salutary experience for him and be uppermost in his mind should he ever have such thoughts again”.

He imposed a two-and-half year prison term with the final six months suspended on strict conditions including that he stay away from the complainant, that he keep the peace and be of good behaviour for three years, and that he engage with the Probation Service for 12 months upon his release from prison.

Detective Garda Joseph Cusack told Roisin Lacey SC, prosecuting, that the woman told specialist interviewing Gardaí that she was at the bus station in Limerick City when Mr Guerin approached her and asked her if was she from the area, expressing concern for her safety and offering her a lift.

She told officers that she thought Mr Guerin was helping her. She knew the buses had left from Limerick and she had nowhere left to go.

She said that when she got into the car, Mr Guerin “dropped his hand” and she asked him to stop.

He replied “do you want to be aroused?” and asked her if she had a boyfriend. He said he was married and began to move his hand up her leg, but she pushed him away. He offered to let her stay in his house because she had nowhere else to go.

Detective Garda Cusack said that, on reaching Mr Guerin’s home, he offered the woman a cup of tea. He then opened her coat and went to touch her breasts, but she told him not to touch her.

The woman later told specialist Gardaí that she was “a soft eejit” and agreed to go to a bed in Guerin’s home but he “took advantage” of her and got in beside her.

She told officers she “gave up” and lay there, saying she was “so fed up because he wouldn’t listen to me”.

She said she stayed quiet and he took off her clothes and cuddled her, “pawing me… letting on that we were a couple”.

She said he kept making her touch his penis but she didn’t want to and he was also trying to kiss her.

The woman said she continued pushing him away and Mr Guerin told her he was trying to get her into the mood for sex, “but I was not in the mood for sex”.

Mr Guerin then brought the woman to Limerick where he told her she was a “beautiful looking girl” and gave her €10 before he dropped her at a Garda station.

He asked the woman if she was “sure you won’t report me?”.

by Sonya McLean