The brutal assault Anna Ilnicka suffered has had a shattering effect on her life.
Now, information has come to light which shows how she was treated by the criminal justice system in the wake of that nightmarish experience.
As first reported in the Irish Examiner on January 26, Anna Ilnicka is a Polish national who came to this country in 2005. She settled in Galway in an attempt to start afresh after a divorce in her homeland. In April 2006, she travelled to another west of Ireland town after being invited to take up a job in a garden centre.
What followed was a weekend in which she was assaulted physically and sexually in such a brutal manner that, at one point, she thought she was going to die. Later, she recalled the darkest moments.
“He tells me he wants to kill me and he took a knife from the kitchen and plays with it. He offers me the knife and asks me to kill him. The episode with the knife passed. I do not know what happened to the knife.
“He started to beat me very hard. He punched me very hard in the face. Every time he hits me he says: ‘I will break your face. I will change you’. He tells me: ‘Nobody can have you. I kill you.’
“He hit me several times and tells me this. His phone rang and I picked it up and I say: ‘Please, please help me.’ The next thing I remember was seeing a garda and an ambulance.”
Anna was rescued and brought first to a medical centre, where her injuries were deemed so severe, she was dispatched by ambulance to Sligo Regional Hospital. Medical records show she had alleged she was sexually assaulted, yet no examination was ever conducted on her.
Anna Ilnicka's injuries after the attack
Subsequent to that, she had to be treated in three separate hospitals for her injuries, and for years thereafter received assistance from the Galway Rape Crisis Centre, and psychiatric services in University College Hospital Galway.
Her treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system was another matter.
There is no record of her assailant being arrested at the scene of the crime. Afterwards, Anna’s landlord, who acted in an admirable manner, contacted the Garda station in the town to inquire what was being done about the assault. He was told Anna would have to travel there in order to make a statement.
Without the landlord’s proactive intervention, it is quite possible that no criminal charge whatsoever would have been pressed.
Despite Anna’s poor grasp of English, no interpreter was present when she made her Garda statement. As a result, she says, the statement which formed the basis for a prosecution did not properly reflect the extent of the assault, and particularly the sexual element of the assault.
The wheels of justice ground slowly. The case was returned to the Circuit Criminal Court on a charge of assault causing harm.
Progress was slow. For example, a request to University College Hospital Galway for Anna’s medical records did not occur until 10 months after she gave her statement.
Eventually, a trial date was set for February 2008. On the preceding day, the State solicitor was told that the defendant was a client in an alcohol treatment centre and would not be available to the court.
The next trial date was April 15. On that occasion, Anna was told of the proceedings the night before. She was not supplied with an interpreter. In court, the defendant pleaded guilty and the judge ordered a probation report ahead of sentencing.
That was scheduled for July 1. The preceding day, the State solicitor was told that the defendant had, that very day, been admitted to a hospital’s mental health facility on the basis that he was threatening suicide. The case was put back again. Over the summer, Anna was advised to retain a solicitor to represent her interests.
She was put in touch with an Athlone firm, Anthony Barry Solicitors.
In September, the firm wrote to the State solicitor expressing extreme concern about the lack of information being supplied to a victim of a serious assault.
“My client and her social worker have contacted me about the lack of communication in the case and how same has progressed and the reasons why there have been adjournments in the matter over a number of Circuit Courts,” Anna’s representatives wrote. “You will appreciate as a victim in such a serious assault Ms Ilnicka is seriously anxious about any forthcoming court proceedings.
“I would be obliged if you could please let me hear as to who my client should contact in the Garda station for any further information, and that she might be kept updated on the matter. Secondly I would request that a Polish interpreter be available at any forthcoming proceedings.”
Assurances were given on both accounts in a letter of reply. The State solicitor’s office went on to say: “I am now going to inquire of the gardaí as to the whereabouts of [the convicted man], i.e., is he in hospital, or an institution or is he back in the community and either the gardaí or myself will let you know the position in that regard.”
However, Anna says that any communication from the gardaí, or any State agency thereafter, consisted of a telephone call on the day before subsequent proceedings, leaving her little time to make necessary arrangements about work, and organising travel from Galway to the town. Neither was she informed between appearances about the status of the process.
The next hearing was set for November 18. Anna says that, despite written assurances, no interpreter was made available to her that day.
Finally, sentencing was set for April 12, 2009. Anna was told about it the day before and, with the help of a counsellor she was seeing, she managed to acquire the services of an interpreter herself. The assailant ultimately received a community service order.
A postscript to how this woman was treated by our justice system after being brutally assaulted occurred when she applied for compensation for loss of earnings for the three court appearances she attended, all of which required her to travel from Galway.
A response from An Garda Síochána set out a few parameters to her application.
“Ms Ilnicka will only be paid on dates she attended court,” the letter stated.
“She will have to submit the exact kilometres travelled on each visit to court and will be paid accordingly, which is 23c per kilometre.
“Ms Ilnicka will have to state the duration of time spent in court on each date.
“Regarding loss of earnings, Ms Ilnicka will have to submit a stamped certificate from her employers, clarifying the exact loss of wages incurred.
“In relation to two visits to the Garda station I regret to inform you that Ms Ilnicka is not entitled to a reimbursement in that particular respect.”
She will subsequently be entitled to €11 for five hours for each date.
The rules in these mattes have to be observed.
The scandal is that rules, obligations, and any sense of compassion were all sorely missing in officialdom’s attitudes towards Anna Ilnicka for much of the case.
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