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Jailed former RTÉ journalist Mícheál Ó Leidhin appeals 15-month sentence for sexual assault

Kerryman Ó Leidhin (38), who worked as a political reporter, was found guilty in May of the sexual assault of a woman

Mícheál Ó Leidhin outside the Central Criminal Court last July. Picture by Collins Courts

Mark TigheSunday Independent

An RTÉ journalist who was fired from his job and jailed for 15 months after he was found guilty of sexual assault is to appeal his prison sentence.

Mícheál Ó Leidhin, a 38-year old Kerryman who worked as a political reporter for Raidió na Gaeltachta, was found guilty in May of the sexual assault of a woman.

Ó Leidhin, of Sunnyside, Malahide Road, Artane, Dublin, is serving an 18-month sentence with three months suspended since August 1.

He lodged appeals against both his conviction and sentence on July 27, but the legal diary only shows an appeal against his sentence scheduled for a Court of Appeal hearing this week.

At a sentencing hearing last July, his barrister said Ó Leidhin accepted the jury’s verdict.

At the Central Criminal Court, Garda Niall Freyne told Michael Delaney SC how the complainant was in a Dublin pub in May 2018 with a female friend when they met Ó Leidhin, who knew her friend.

The group went to another pub and the woman and Ó Leidhin kissed. At the end of the night, Ó Leidhin asked the woman back to his flat in south Dublin.

In the journalist’s home they engaged in consensual sexual foreplay.

Former RTÉ journalist Mícheál Ó Leidhin (38)

Ó Leidhin suggested they have penetrative sex but the woman said “no”, but left open the possibility that they could do this the next morning, Mr Delaney SC told the court.

The woman gave evidence that she woke up to find Ó Leidhin lying on top of her groping her breasts.

She told him to get off, the court heard. The woman said she was confused and annoyed and told Ó Leidhin it was weird he had done this while she slept.

She told the court she absolutely did not consent. They went back to sleep and Ó Leidhin later gave the woman a lift home.

The court heard they spoke later that day via phone and texts and the woman expressed her unhappiness about what happened.

Ó Leidhin called over to her house and they spoke for about an hour.

Mr Delaney SC said they agreed to differ and there was no contact between them after that. The woman reported the incident to gardaí a year later.

In a statement to gardaí, Ó Leidhin said that when he woke on the night he had wanted to resume the sexual activity they had engaged in earlier. He said he was trying to wake the woman to continue “fooling around”. He said she asked him to stop and he did.

In her victim impact statement, she said she felt grief and distress and felt totally disconnected from reality.

The woman said relationships with her family had become strained and she had lost her social circle and many friends.

She said she had not been able to progress in her career, but became depressed and suicidal. The woman said she believed if society supported victims better, she would not have had to deal with such devastating losses.

The only person responsible for the relationships and friendships she had lost was Ó Leidhin, she said, and yet she had been shamed and blamed because of what he did to her.

Judge Karen O’Connor said aggravating factors in the case were the effect on the victim, who spoke in a compelling manner about her trauma and her sense of being violated when she slept.

In mitigation, the court heard Ó Leidhin was of previous good character, a hard-working scholarship student, who was very highly qualified and had an impressive work history.

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