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Bus driver who sexually assaulted special needs girl appears in court

CourtsBy Sunday World
Bus driver who sexually assaulted special needs girl appears in court

Sentencing of a bus driver for a residential home for people with special needs who sexually assaulted a female passenger 16 years ago has been adjourned because of a delay with a medical diagnosis for the man.

The 72-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his now 30 year-old victim, changed his plea to guilty during his trial after a video of the victim's interview with specialist gardai was played before a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

He had pleaded not guilty to ten counts of sexually assaulting the woman in the vehicle and also at a private residence on dates between September 1998 and September 1999, while the woman was 13 years old.

Roisin Lacey BL prosecuting, told Judge Sarah Berkeley that the victim had cerebral palsy and "operates her life on the level of a six or seven year old."

Counsel said the Director of Public Prosecution accepted the accused's plea of guilty to two charges of sexual assault on the bus. The man has previous convictions for road traffic offences.

Judge Berkeley previously described the offending as "abominable". She had adjourned the case to Wednesday next to allow the man to attend an emergency medical appointment as his GP was gravely concerned about his health.

Shane Costelloe SC, defending, told the court that his client had since attended a lung clinic at the Mater Hospital where swabs were taken but that the results of these tests would not be available until next month.

Judge Berkeley said the man's prognosis was a significant factor that must be taken into account before she finalised sentence.

She said she wanted a full diagnosis before she would sentence him. Ms Lacey told the court that the victim's mother was present in court and that this case was hanging over the family and causing distress to them.

Garda Ronan Cogavin told Ms Lacey that the victim disclosed the abuse after she received a birthday card from the man on her 25th birthday.

She became visibly upset when the card was read out by one of her caregivers at her residential home and immediately made a complaint that she had been abused by the man.

Her mother was notified and she then made a complaint to the gardai. The man was interviewed in February 2011 after he came voluntarily to the garda station but he totally denied the allegations.

The previous year the victim had been interviewed by specialist gardai. She said that the man had touched her breasts underneath her clothing and touched her private parts while he was driving her home to her family for the weekend.

The woman told gardaí she had asked the man to stop doing it and hit him but he didn't listen to her.

A victim impact report was prepared by the woman's mother because she was concerned preparing such a report would be too upsetting for her daughter. The report was handed into court but not read out.

Mr Costelloe told Judge Berkeley that his client had also been charged with sexually assaulting the victim in a private residence but he had continually denied this and the DPP has accepted the two pleas he entered.

He asked the court to accept that although his client did not quite have an unblemished record, his previous convictions were nothing like those before the courts.

Counsel said the man was separated and had two adult children. He was currently living in a old folks home and was entirely dependent on the State pension.

Mr Costelloe handed in a medical report from the man's GP which stated that there were grave concerns for his health and confirmed that he had an appointment tomorrow for an emergency examination.

Counsel said his client apologised for his behaviour and took full responsibility but he couldn't explain how he "allowed himself to do it."

"He has at times felt sucidial and is deeply ashamed of his behaviour. He accepts it was a gross breach of trust," Mr Costelloe told Judge Berkeley.

The hearing today was held in open court but Mr Costelloe told the court that the law is that nothing can be reported that might tend to identify the injured party.

Judge Berkeley agreed that "reporting restrictions are still in place."

Sonya McLean and Declan Brennan