Monday, November 07, 2022

Fiona Ferguson

A judge has urged a rape victim not to blame herself for placing her trust in a man she liked and was attracted to, despite her trust being breached “in a most frightening way”.

Longford man Karl Reilly (39) continued having sex with the young woman he met in a bar after she asked him to stop when a second man entered the dark van he had brought her to. The young woman was later also sexually assaulted by the other man.

The court heard the young woman was “petrified” by the situation and the men mocked and laughed at her before she left the van and was aided by a passer-by who found her in a distressed state.

Reilly, of Inny View, Aghara, Carrickboy, Longford, was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury in a trial earlier this year of raping the woman in Galway city centre on a date in August 2017. He has no previous convictions.

The case of the second man, who was convicted of sexual assault, was adjourned in full due to health issues until next month when full facts and a plea of mitigation will be heard in his case.

Apology

Lawyers for Reilly told the court he accepts that he made poor choices on the night and the woman was treated poorly by him. He apologises for that but does not accept the verdict of the jury.

The young woman told the court in her victim impact statement how her decision to get into the van “haunts” her and she blames herself, feeling guilt and shame, for letting it happen.

She outlined how she had met a man in a bar that night that she believed was nice and decent and had believed she was safe. She said she didn’t hate them, but hated herself for letting it happen.

She told the court of the continuing traumatic effects the offences have had on her life including nightmares, trouble sleeping and concentrating, panic attacks and emotional pain.

“I need them to realise what they did that night was not OK, none of it was OK,” she told the court, “I hope after all this, they are sorry for what they have done.”

Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring noted the woman has continued to ask herself why she got into the van, but said it was important to note she had no reason not to believe she would not be safe.

She said the injured party would not be alone in wondering why certain decisions had been made, especially where drink was involved, but she noted that in most cases this leads to nothing more than a hangover and a resolve not to do it again.

Hindsight

She said it was part of the human condition for young people especially to take risks and trust people they don’t know well or at all.

She said people make decisions that are not wise in hindsight, but the young woman should not have to worry that her personal safety and bodily integrity would be breached.

“She trusted someone she met and liked and if women and men can’t do that then life will be quite restricted in the future,” said Judge Ring. She said the woman had placed her trust in a man she liked and was attracted to and it had been breached in a most frightening way.

Ms Justice Ring said the law in relation to consent could not be clearer – consent can be withdrawn at any time before or during the act. She stressed that ignoring the withdrawal of consent can lead to prosecution and a conviction carrying up to life imprisonment.

She noted the woman had been feeling powerless in a dark, unknown environment with one man who had ignored her when she asked him to stop having sex and a second man she did not know. She said to expect her to get up and leave was to ignore the dynamics of the situation.

Good samaritan

She noted that the woman’s trust in a third man, “the good Samaritan” who brought her to gardaí, had been rewarded, and she hoped she could focus on the actions of this and other good men.

She noted in mitigation that Reilly has no prior convictions and was assessed to be at low risk of reoffending. She took into account letters and testimonials from family and friends.

She said in keeping with his assertion of innocence, there was limited remorse but took into account he had reflected on events, and that it was clear he regrets his actions in light of the effects on the woman and his family.

Ms Justice Ring said the offending may have been out of character for Reilly, but it had been a reality for the young woman and has marked her into the future.

She imposed a seven-year sentence and suspended the final 18 months on strict conditions.

Galway night out

A prosecuting garda told Eoghan Cole BL, prosecuting, that both Reilly and the injured party had separately come to Galway to stay and socialise. They met in a bar where they chatted and kissed.

They went to a local hotel where the woman understood that Reilly was staying for further drinks and he invited her to his accommodation. She was surprised to find he was sleeping in a van in a car park. She got into the van and they had consensual sex. The back of the van was unlit and dark.

The court heard that while they were having sex a second person opened the door to the back of the van and was told by Reilly to go away. This man got into the front of the van and records show he was on a phone call for some time.

The woman at this point told Reilly she did not want to continue having sex but he did not stop and continued having sex with her. The second man later came to the back of the van to go asleep.

The woman at this point pushed Reilly away. The second man touched her leg without her consent and digitally penetrated her anus.

She began screaming and kicking and they stopped. The woman was distressed and when she asked if they were going to kill her, the men laughed at her. The woman stayed in the van for a time and later left saying she needed a toilet. There was no evidence she was stopped leaving the van.

Afterwards “a good Samaritan” found the woman outside in a distressed state and she was taken to gardaí and a sexual assault treatment unit. Gardaí approached the van and both men, who were still asleep, were arrested.

Reilly told gardaí that he had met the woman and they had consensual sex. He denied the woman said no and denied that he had prevented her from leaving.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, said Reilly was a father of two and had helped run a family garage business which employed a number of people. He went into custody last July and Mr Bowman said the prison environment has been a tremendous shock to him.

He handed a number of testimonials from family and friends into court and outlined his work in his local community. He said Reilly has no issues with drink or drugs and had been struggling with his mental health in the run-up to the trial.

Counsel asked the court to take into account the fact Reilly had family support available to him on his release and would be expected to go back to living a life where he contributed to his community.

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