Student got ‘fright of her life’ as man unzipped trousers

By Liam Heylin

A Leaving Certificate student at a private school in Cork got the fright of her life on the first day of her exams when she emerged from a cubicle in the school toilets to see a man unzipping his trousers and talking to her in a sexual fashion.

Tadhg Hopkins, aged 40, of halting site Nashe’s Boreen, Fairhill, was jailed for ten months yesterday at Cork District Court in relation to the incident at Scoil Mhuire on Sidney Place, Wellington Rd.

Scoil Mhuire, Wellington Rd, Cork. A student emerged from a school toilet to see a man with his zip open. Picture: Denis Scannel

Detective Sergeant Kieran O’Sullivan said the student had prepared a victim impact statement for yesterday’s sentencing hearing but she asked for this not to be read out in court.

Frank Buttimer, defending, said: “Clearly there have been consequences for the young lady — they leap off the page.”

Judge Olann Kelleher said: “This young lady was starting her Leaving Cert. It is not what you would hope to deal with when doing a State exam and it had such consequences for her.

“She did observe him undoing his zip in front of her and she got the fright of her life.”

The charges relate to June 6. Two charges state that Hopkins trespassed at the school without reasonable excuse in such a manner as caused or was likely to cause fear in another person. Two other charges state that Hopkins intentionally engaged in offensive conduct of a sexual nature.

Inspector Ronan Kennelly said that at 1.40pm on June 6, Hopkins had entered Scoil Mhuire girls school on Wellington Road.

“Here he spoke to two girls in an elevator in the school. The content of the conversation was sexual and suggestive in nature,” he said.

One of the girls in the elevator was starting her Junior Cert and made a statement of complaint giving rise to one of the sexual counts, but she opted not to prepare a victim impact statement.

The second count arose out of the actions of Hopkins after he left the elevator.

Insp Kennelly said: “He went into the ladies toilet where the Leaving Cert student had opened the cubicle to be confronted by the accused. She said he had his trousers open and had his hand down his trousers. This lady exited the toilet and the male was escorted from the school by staff.”

It was clarified that the defendant did not force or attempt to force any party to engage in physical activity.

Det Sgt O’Sullivan said Hopkins had 101 previous convictions — none for offences of a sexual nature. He had 13 assault convictions, including two for causing harm. He said Hopkins followed people entering a secure area of the school and there may have been a belief that he was an examiner.

Mr Buttimer said Hopkins had a significant, long-standing difficulty with alcohol and had alcohol taken on that occasion, but was not greatly under the influence of alcohol.

Mr Buttimer said Hopkins knew little of the school and believed it was some kind of college.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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