Not guilty plea in hotel sexual assault case

Published 12/02/2016 | 23:12

Judge's gavel.
Judge's gavel.

A WEXFORD man has pleaded not guilty to two charges of sexual assault in which the woman claimed she was assaulted while sleeping in her hotel bedroom.

Before a jury of seven men and five women at Wexford Circuit Court, the Wexford man pleaded not guilty to sexual assault on October 11, 2008, at a Wexford hotel. He also pleaded not guilty to burglary.

The alleged victim told the court she arrived at the hotel on the Friday night accompanied by her sister.

Following a meal at the hotel they went to a nightclub.

At the end of the night they shared a taxi back to the hotel with several other people going in the same direction. The woman said she went straight to bed, while her sister had a drink in the hotel with one of the men who was with them in the taxi.

The woman told the court how she woke up to find a stranger on her bed touching her. She shouted at him to get out. According to the woman the man left, but returned sometime later, knocking on the door. When she opened the door, the man was standing outside the room wearing a red striped shirt. He subsequently got his trousers off the bed, before she then locked the door. 

The woman then said she rang her sister, who came up to the room. Having inspected the room she contacted the hotel manager, before gardai arrived a short time later.

The woman told prosecuting counsel, Ms Sinead Gleeson, that she had not seen the man before he was in her room.

Under cross examination, the woman agreed with defence counsel John Peart that this was not the first time the case had been before the court. Mr Peart put it to the witness that in the initial trial the previous week, the jury had to be discharged as an issue arose over whether or not she discussed her evidence with her sister. The woman said she vaguely remembered this.

Mr Peart claimed the woman had changed her story to say that when the defendant knocked on the door, he had no trousers. Mr Peart said that in her original statement the woman said that when the defendant knocked on the door, he had his trousers. She subsequently changed her version of events to stay in line with her sister’s evidence, claimed Mr Peart. The woman denied this assertion.

The woman’s sister told the court of having returned to the hotel from the nightclub with her sister, who went to bed while she had a drink with a man who had travelled with them in the taxi. She later telephoned her sister at 4.50a.m. to see if she was okay but there was no answer.

About ten minutes later she received a call from her sister to say there was a man in her room. As she went to the room she saw a man wearing a striped shirt. Her sister told her she woke up to the sensation of someone touching her on the bed. They then rang the manager, who came to the room, before contacting gardai.

She denied a suggestion that she and her sister had doctored up their evidence as regards the unidentified man.

Mr. Peart said the only explanation was the door was left open by her sister.

The witness said that the door was not locking properly.

An employee of the hotel told the trial of having gone to the room on receipt of a telephone call where he found a woman in a distressed state. He told of the gardai later arriving. He said no complaint regarding the door had been made to him.

Garda Mark Whitty told the trial of having visited the room with Sgt Denis Whelan, while he believed that Garda Caroline Coffey had also attended. While he met the woman in the room he could not remember if anyone else was in the room.

He said that Sgt Whelan was investigating the matter and was making arrangements for the alleged victim to attend the Assault Treatment Unit at Waterford University Hospital. It came to their attention there was a gentleman in the hotel in the adjoining room. Sgt Whelan went to the room where he found the accused man, along with his mother. After Sgt Whelan had spoken with the accused, items of clothing were then seized. The accused was invited to Wexford Garda Station where he was interviewed. The accused man was subsequently charged with the offences before the court.

During cross-examination by Mr. Peart, Garda Whitty said he was not aware if the clothing was analysed or not at the Garda Forensic Science Laboratory.

Mr. Peart asked if there was a mistake of the DNA analysis of the accused and of the complainant. ‘Did you examine it? I am referring to the form returned,’ asked Mr Peart. ‘Not necessarily,’ replied Garda Whitty.

Following further cross examination, Garda Whitty told Mr. Peart that the Biology box was ticked on the form but the DNA was not ticked. The receptionist at that Garda Forensic Science Laboratory was told it was for a biology test and not DNA, The receptionist was Colette Treacy.

The trial was adjourned to Tuesday February 9 to allow for evidence from a member of the Garda Forensic Science Laboratory.

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