Jury submits unanimous verdict in Christmas party sex offence trial

Limerick Circuit Court.

A MAN acquitted of exposing his penis to a young woman following a Christmas party wept in court this Thursday evening after a jury at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court acquitted him.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons and who was a teenager at the time, had denied a single count of intentionally engaging in offensive conduct of a sexual nature, on December 22, 2017.

The man was initially charged along with two other men with one count of sexually assaulting the young woman, after the court heard they had attended a Christmas party organised at a rugby club in Limerick.

During the mens’ trial last week, the prosecution dropped the sex assault charge and arraigned the three males on a lesser charge of intentionally engaging in offensive conduct of a sexual nature.

Two of the men pleaded guilty to this charge and were remanded on bail for sentencing.

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The third accused pleaded not guilty to the new charge and his trial progressed until its conclusion this evening.

The alleged victim in the case told the man’s trial that she had been drunk when she was led out of the party by one of the other males.

The woman alleged the accused and two other males exposed their penises to her, saying that 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 male stuck his fingers inside her vagina, and the third male kissed her and felt her crotch area outside her pants.

The woman, who became emotional a number of times during her direct evidence to the court, said she had not invited the men to engage in sexual behaviour with her, and that she had said “no” to oral sex.

The woman agreed with the accused man’s barrister, Erin O’Hagan BL, that the accused could have been “making a pee” and therefore had his penis exposed in his hand, however the victim said she “did not hear the sound of urine splashing on the ground” at the time.

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

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

The young 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 males.

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 with the three males.

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 female.

Ms O’Hagan 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 males), 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 prosecution had “left out three very important witnesses”, who she said were the female’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.”

After just over two hours of deliberating, the jury returned an unanimous not guilty verdict.

The accused wept in court after the verdict was delivered.

Speaking afterwards, the man said it had been “an emotional” day. He said his life had hung under a cloud for the past seven years, but that he was now “massively relived” to have been found not guilty.

“I’m looking forward to progressing with the rest of my life,” he said.

The sentencing of the two other defendants who pleaded guilty is scheduled to take place on March 8.