Man who sexually assaulted woman as she slept in her bed avoids jail sentence

Stephen McCarthy received a suspended sentence
Stephen McCarthy received a suspended sentence

A man who sexually assaulted a woman while she was asleep in her bed has avoided jail.

During initial questioning over the attack, Dubliner Stephen McCarthy (23) told gardai that he "tripped and landed on top of" the victim after a party.

McCarthy, of Esker Hills, Portlaoise, Co Laois, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual assault at a house in June 2013 and was given a two-and-a-half-year suspended sentence.

During the trial, Garda Mary Brophy told the court the female victim had gone to sleep in her bedroom at about 1.30am following the party and awoke later that night feeling "something weird".

She said McCarthy had his fingers in her vagina and was attempting to kiss her. She screamed and jumped out of the bed.

The victim’s sister came up to the bedroom but there was no-one there. She then found McCarthy in another room where he appeared to be pretending to sleep.

McCarthy was later arrested and questioned by gardai, telling them that he had tripped, landed on top of the victim and she had screamed.

He was released without charge and later left the country to work abroad. However, he returned to Ireland upon learning that he was to be charged over the incident.

Judge Martin Nolan told the court that had been a "particularly disturbing event" for the woman and it was "reprehensible" that McCarthy did not make admissions to the gardai during questioning.

He took account of McCarthy's guilty plea, his lack of any previous convictions and the fact that €2,000 in compensation had been accepted by the victim as a "token of remorse".

The judge noted McCarthy had been in custody since December 7.

"The question I have to decide is, does Mr McCarthy deserve a further period of custody?" Judge Nolan. "It seems to me by reason of the good mitigation that that type of sentence is not necessary."

In her victim impact statement, the woman said that her life had been changed forever following the assault. She said the idea that the safest place you could be was at home in your own bed had been taken away from her.

Defence for McCarthy told the court that his client apologised and was deeply ashamed of himself.