Man pleads guilty to sex assault at leisure centre

As a woman was changing into a swimsuit at a Limerick hotel leisure centre, a man appeared out of a toilet cubicle and grabbed her breast, a court heard.

Limerick Circuit Court was told the assault had a major impact on the victim’s life, resulting in nightmares, fear of being alone, and necessitating counselling.

Shane Byrnes, aged 26, of 34 Hyde Road, Ballinacurra Weston, pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the woman at the leisure centre in the Castletroy Park Hotel on April 18, 2014.

Garda Colum O’Shea said the woman, after leaving the gym at the leisure centre, proceeded to the changing room where she began to put on a swimsuit.

She had been wearing the bottom part of the swimsuit when she heard water being flushed in a toilet cubicle.

A man then came out of the cubicle carrying a duffle bag. The top of her swimsuit was not fully in place and she covered herself with her hand, Garda O’Shea told the court.

The man said: “Sorry, I thought I was in the lads’ changing room.”

The victim said: “Grand, just get out.”

She then realised Byrnes had moved over beside her and his bag brushed off her leg. He then put his hand over her shoulder and grabbed the hand covering the front of her body, said Garda O’Shea.

Referring to her breasts, Byrnes said: “Very nice, let me see see them and let me touch them.”

The woman still had not managed to get the top of her swimsuit on and he grabbed her breast. As he did so, the victim managed to elbow Byrnes and shouted at him to get away. Byrnes stood and stared at her before leaving.

Management was alerted and gardaí were called.

When questioned, Byrnes said he went to the men’s changing room to steal money for drink. When he got nothing, he went to the women’s changing room.

When he saw the woman either naked or topless he got turned on and asked her to show him her breasts. He denied touching the woman’s breast.

It was a sexual opportunity done on the spur of the moment, Byrnes told gardaí.

He said the victim seemed a bit scared and in fear.

Byrnes said he crossed the boundary and that it wasn’t him but drink.

In a victim impact statement read out by John O’Sullivan, prosecuting, the woman said what happened had a large, negative impact on her life.

Simple things like walking to work and shopping had become difficult as she felt unsafe on her own. She had nightmares and needed counselling, the court was told.

The accused had previous convictions, with one in 2009 for a similar assault on a woman in another leisure centre’s changing room.

Lawrence Gauchier, defending, said Byrnes wanted to get treatment and a course he was willing to undertake had been identified.

A probation report was handed into court and the defence asked for an adjournment to enable Byrnes avail of the course.

Judge Tom O’Donnell adjourned sentencing until next Wednesday to give himself time to consider the probation report.

He said: “The victim impact statement is profound, to say the least.”


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