A Cork man who raped a woman in a public park after she lay there to sleep having become separated from her friends on a night out has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.
Dermot O'Connor (49) was sleeping rough in the park that night, when the 20-year-old victim, who was clearly intoxicated, came in and found a secluded place to sleep. He first sexually assaulted the woman while she was sleeping and left, but returned again to rape her.
O’Connor of St John Terrace, World’s End, Kinsale, pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape at the park on July 21, 2019.
An investigating garda told Siobhán Lankford SC, prosecuting, that the woman texted a work colleague after the attack and told them she had been raped. She then made her way to a nearby taxi base where the gardaí met her.
The garda said the woman was too intoxicated to be examined in the sexual assault treatment unit when she arrived but swabs were taken from her later.
He told Ms Lankford that 60 witness statements were taken and 300 hours of CCTV footage was viewed during the course of the investigation.
O’Connor was nominated as a suspect after the CCTV footage showed him leaving the park shortly after the first sexual assault and returning again at the time of the rape.
There were only three entry points into the park and no other person apart from the victim were captured on CCTV footage going in or out of it.
The garda also confirmed that DNA found in semen that was recovered from the swabs taken in the SATU matched that of O’Connor.
O’Connor was arrested at his home and later interviewed by gardaí. He claimed he never had sex with the woman but could not account for his presence in the park at the time or his DNA being found on her swabs.
The now 22-year-old woman read her victim impact statement into the record.
She said that prior to the rape she suffered with anxiety and depression. She became separated from her work friends that night and went to sleep outside. She found a secluded spot she was familiar with and she said she felt safe and “out of harm’s way”.
“Instead, I woke to find the accused man raping me. I first thought I was a dreaming but when I realised what was happening, I was petrified and pretended to be asleep,” the woman continued.
She stayed out of work the following week. “When I was not asleep. I was crying,” the woman said referring to how she spent the week after the rape.
She had to change her job so she wouldn’t be in contact with so many people.
The woman said she is terrified of being alone. “I fear the world. I feel this constant vulnerability. I am waiting for the next bad thing to happen. I feel very lonely.” She said she is happy O’Connor pleaded guilty “and people will know that I was telling the truth”.
The woman thanked the investigating garda for his assistance in the case.
Elizabeth O’Connell SC, defending, said her client wished to express his deep remorse.
She asked the judge to take into account that this is the first incident of any type of sexual violence committed by her client and as such was “entirely out of character”.
She submitted that there was “no gratuitous violence or degradation of the victim” in addition to raping her and said it was not “a prolonged event”.
Mr Justice Michael MacGrath had adjourned the case having heard evidence last Monday.
He said today that it had been an opportunistic attack on a vulnerable and isolated young woman. He noted the effect the offence has had on the young woman.
Mr Justice MacGrath outlined that there had been delays in the case due to the pandemic and difficulties in securing a face-to-face meeting between O’Connor and his legal team until restrictions lifted.
The judge noted that there had been no threats or gratuitous violence over and above the offence itself. He took into account that O’Connor has a turbulent background and was sleeping rough at the time due to family difficulties. He said the guilty plea had come as a relief to the injured party.
Mr Justice MacGrath imposed a six-year sentence and suspended the final six months taking into account the absence of prior sexual offending and to assist in rehabilitation.