Pupil, 15, who gave ‘bear hug’ to teacher charged with sexual assault

A 15-year-old secondary school student has been charged with the sexual assault of a 50-year-old female teacher on a street in the south-west last April.

The student was accompanied by his mother as he appeared before a young persons court in Kerry.

Padraig O’Connell, solicitor, said the boy was of limited intellectual capacity.

The DPP had directed a charge of sexual assault and, on the scale of sexual assault, the charge was on the lower end, the court was told.

The court, which was held in camera, was told the alleged assault took place at about 7.40pm on a street during what was a holiday period.

A garda gave evidence of arrest, charge, and caution, and said that the teenager made no reply to the charge when he attended a station by appointment on Sept 27.

The student and teacher were known to each other as they were at the same school, the garda said.

“The teacher was making her way to a shop and she alleges the young man approached her. She was on x street and she says he blocked her path frontally,” the garda said.

“He then grabbed her in a hug and held onto her, and dropped his two hands... and squeezed her buttocks.”

The alleged hug could be described as a bear hug, he said, agreeing with Judge James O’Connor.

Asked by the judge if this was an “inordinately strong squeeze”, the garda said it was not.

“The teacher was frozen to the spot — the bear hug was quite strong and she couldn’t move,” the garda said.

She suffered no physical injury. The alleged act was outside the woman’s clothing, the garda confirmed. The 15-year-old had not been in trouble before.

The court was also told of an alleged remark after the teacher emerged from a shop where she went to compose herself.

The garda said when the woman came out of the shop, “she alleges the teenager shouted at her in a loud voice, ‘Are you a virgin?’ and there was laughter by a group of teenagers”.

Judge O’Connor said: “This can be boyish behaviour when there are two or three together, this has always gone on.”

Mr O’Connell said his client’s intelligence was “at the very lower level”.

Judge O’Connor said: “And this is at the very lower level. Another 50-year-old would laugh at it and say go home and cop yourself on — we will take that into account, too.”

Judge O’Connor has adjourned his decision on whether he will hear the case or send the teenager forward for trial. Legal aid has been granted.

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