Jury retires to consider verdict in offensive sexual conduct case

The Limerick Circuit Court.

A JURY hearing the case of a man accused of exposing his penis in front of a young woman at a Christmas party in Limerick has retired to consider a verdict.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons and who was a teenager at the time, denies a single count of intentionally engaging in offensive conduct of a sexual nature.

Now in his 20s, he was initially charged along with two other men with one count of sexually assaulting the female.

During the men’s trial, the prosecution dropped the sex assault charge and arraigned all three on the lesser charge of intentionally engaging in offensive conduct of a sexual nature.

Two of the men pleaded guilty and were remanded on bail for sentencing in March, and the trial of the third man proceeded throughout last week.

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The alleged victim in the case told the man’s trial she was drunk when she was led out of the building on the grounds of a rugby club clubhouse – in which the party had been organised – by a man that was in the company of the accused on the night.

The woman alleged the accused and two other men exposed their penises to her she was told by one of them, not the accused, that she had to give them “head” (oral sex) and that they would “rate” her.

The woman alleged the accused was “touching” his exposed penis as the second man stuck his fingers inside her vagina, while the third man kissed her and felt her crotch area outside her pants.

The woman said she told the three men she was not going to perform oral sex on them.

The woman agreed with the accused man’s barrister, Erin O’Hagan BL, that the accused could have had his penis exposed and had been holding his penis because he might have been “making a pee”.

In her closing address to the jury on Wednesday, Ms O’Hagan said while this might not have been very “gentlemanly”, it was not, she suggested, the “creepy weird thing” that the prosecution had portrayed.

Ms O’Hagan asked the jury of seven women and five men to think about how many times they had seen male “stag parties” or groups of men outside nightclubs or getting off a bus and urinating at the side of a road, “we’ve all seen it and that’s the reality”, she said.

The alleged victim agreed with Ms O’Hagan that she did not push away the man that she alleged was kissing her.

The woman also agreed she had told “lies” on the night that she had been “raped” after the party, and that she had been sexually assaulted by all three.

She said she did not contact the Gardaí on the night because she was upset and “just wanted to go home”.

The woman eventually told her school chaplain a few weeks later and Gardaí were contacted.

She said she had been jeered and ridiculed by her fellow students after the alleged encounter.

The court also heard evidence that when Gardaí asked the accused if his penis was exposed on the night he replied, “no, only to pee”.

The accused also denied, during an interview with Gardaí following his arrest, that he asked the woman for oral sex and said he had had a girlfriend at the time.

The accused claimed the alleged victim was flirtatious on the night and had indicated she was willing to “shift” (kiss) one of the other men.

Ms O’Hagan told the jury that the alleged victim also agreed that the accused was “10 feet away” when she claimed he was touching his penis.

Ms O’Hagan told the jury they must give the accused “the benefit” if they had any doubt about his alleged involvement with the woman.

She said the prosecution had “moved the goalposts” during the trial “initially stating things like the accused was part of a common design (jointly with the other two men), and there was a sexual assault”.

“That didn’t stack up so now they are talking about offensive conduct so, they say, ‘we’ll try that’, that’s what the prosecution are saying.”

Ms O’Hagan said the alleged victim also agreed that the woman “accepted the accused did not touch her and that the accused was 10 feet away from her”.

Ms O’Hagan said the prosecution had “left out three very important witnesses”, who she said were the woman’s “three best and closest friends” who were with her on the night but whom she become separated from during the party.

Concluding her address to the jury, Ms O’Hagan said: “There is truth in silence, and there is a deafening silence in this case, I hope you can all hear it, and I ask you to acquit the accused and give him his life back.”