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Anthony Ferguson at Letterkenny Circuit Court

Anthony Ferguson at Letterkenny Circuit Court

Anthony Ferguson at Letterkenny Circuit Court

A man who sexually assaulted a woman after breaking into her home after a 'get to know your neighbour’ party has been warned he must come up with €20,000 compensation quickly.

Judge John Aylmer warned Anthony Ferguson, aged 26, that he needs to make "far more accelerated progress" when he appears in court again.

Supermarket manager Ferguson had escaped a prison sentence after the court was told that he could get a loan from his father who runs a chain of supermarkets in the UK.

He had pleaded guilty at Letterkenny Circuit Court, Co Donegal in January this year to charges of sexual assault, burglary and threats to damage property.

The court was told that Ferguson was an "outsider" who had arrived at the event in a Donegal village in 2018.

The party, which was arranged by locals, involved storytelling and other activities for children as well as food and alcohol.

That evening the victim in the case was serving drinks when a man who was not local to the area, later identified as Ferguson, became rowdy and he was asked to leave as the bar was closing.

The victim in the case and her husband went back to their home nearby with some neighbours where they had some more drinks with friends.

However, Ferguson gained entry to the house, was again very rowdy and was asked to leave.

The woman and her husband went to sleep around 2am but the terrified victim revealed she was awoken by a man in the bed beside her.

The man, Ferguson, said to her "I have you now."

The terrified woman jumped up and alerted her husband screaming at him to get the man out of the house.

She realised it was the man who was rowdy earlier and her husband scuffled with him before getting him out of their home.

Ferguson then began shouting to be allowed back into the couple's home as he had left his mobile phone and jacket inside.

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Garda Maria Doherty said they had received a call that a man was banging on doors on the housing estate and that a woman had been sexually assaulted.

Barrister for Ferguson, with an address at Brittania Point, Colliers Wood in London, Mr Colm Smyth, said his client was extremely drunk on the night

The court was told that Ferguson has an issue with both drugs and alcohol and has undergone two rehabilitation stints in addiction clinics.

Ferguson himself apologised to his victim saying he was deeply sorry and ashamed for what he had done and that nobody deserved to go through what she did.

He added that he was shocked when Gardai said he had sexually assaulted a woman saying he didn't think he was capable of such a thing but couldn't remember anything from about 9pm that evening.

The woman's victim impact statement was also read in court.

In it, she said she could have written page after page about how violated she had felt after the incident.

She said she couldn't work for weeks after the attack and was going around her house locking doors all the time.

Her husband, who works abroad, could not travel as she was in so much fear and they lost a major part of their earnings.

She said she wanted Ferguson to stand up and admit what he had done and that his behaviour was atrocious and that he should be disgusted and ashamed of himself.

She added that he should accept his wrongdoing and never put anyone in a position like he had put her in again.

Barrister Colm Smyth said his client's father owned a number of supermarkets and were in a position to offer some compensation to the family towards their loss of earnings as part of an apology.

Despite the victim not seeking compensation, an offer of €20,000 was made but Mr Smyth stressed that Ferguson would repay all the money back to his father from his earnings.

Judge John Aylmer said it was appalling what the woman was subjected to on the night.

He noted that Ferguson had no previous convictions of any kind, his remorse and also his addiction to alcohol.

He said he will review all these circumstances and if he is satisfied that the case fell into one of those "unique categories" then the court may take a view that it can be treated by way of a non-custodial or suspended sentence.

However, when the case was mentioned yesterday, Ferguson's barrister Colm Smyth said that his client had failed to get the loan of €20,000 from his father.

Instead, he said he could lodge €500 a month as a direct debit for the victim and was confident he could soon get a loan for the balance of the compensation proposed.

Judge Aylmer said he was "not very impressed with the situation."

He said there was a serious sexual assault in the woman's home in what were "the most extraordinary circumstances."

He added that this could have been the case that a custodial sentence was warranted but for the charitable nature of the victim who was not averse to the suggestion of compensation.

He also noted that Ferguson had no previous convictions and how he was taking steps towards his alcohol problems and had actually just come out of rehab.

Judge Aylmer said that with payments of €500 a month it would take more than three years to reach the €20,000 compensation and that this did not impress him.

He adjourned the case until the next sitting of the circuit court in Letterkenny in October for a final decision.

"I want a proposal on the next occasion for far more accelerated progress to be put in place and I am not committing to anything. A far greater effort is needed," he warned Ferguson.

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