A middle-aged man charged with harassing four teenage girls on a bus journey and sexually assaulting one of them said all he did was engage in banter and asked: “If a fella is being brought to court for this what is the world coming to?”
The accused man, Anthony Quigley, 45, of 14 Roches Heights, Mitchelstown, County Cork, pleaded not guilty to charges including one of sexual assault and four of harassment on December 4 last year in the course of a bus journey.
Mr Quigley made the comment about banter and denied any wrongdoing when questioned by Detective Garda Denis Ryan. Asked about inappropriate contact, he said: “That is not my style of thing. You are saying inappropriate, I am saying banter… Off my head might have been an easier way to describe my antics.”
Mr Quigley repeated these assertions when he gave direct evidence from the witness box at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Mr Quigley told his barrister Niamh Ó Donnabháin by way of background that in 1999 he sustained a brain injury and was in a coma for 13 days.
He said he sat on the fifth seat at the back of the bus where the four girls were sitting because it was the last seat left and that he shook hands with them as he sat down and told them jokes including one about an elephant and a loaf of bread.
He said one of them was laughing and then ended up coughing frantically so he tapped her on the back. “I put my hand on her knee and said, ‘you OK?’ and she said, ‘yeah’.”
He said that when a passenger left further up the bus he sat there and shook hands with the four girls and left them. As he walked away he said he could hear them saying, “Jesus, he’s a gas man.”
Imelda Kelly prosecution barrister said the alleged sexual assault consisted of the accused man putting his hand on the teenage girl’s thigh and he denied this and other allegations and said: “I will do a lie detector test… I strongly deny I put my hand on her thigh.”
When Ms Kelly BL said the four girls were consistent in their evidence, including an allegation that Mr Quigley said one girl’s mother was a prostitute, he denied the claims and said: “They were coached. Nothing sexual was told. Not even a curse was said.”
Ms Kelly said: “You said you would like to take the girls on holiday and share a hotel room with them?” He replied: “I said I would take them away to Disneyland. I did not say anything about a room.”
At another stage when he denied the allegations made by the girls he said: “This is fabrication. It is out of character. Them girls are exaggerating… It is freedom of speech. They should have said, ‘we do not want to speak to you’, and boom, I would have been gone.”
The case before Judge Brian O’Callaghan and a jury of four women and eight men will continue tomorrow.