A homeless young woman told the man who sexually assaulted her that even though she was addicted to heroin and living in a tent that did not give anyone the right to touch her without her permission.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin commended the professionalism of two gardaí – Michael Nagles and Michelle Quinn – for their professionalism in investigating the matter and never walking away from the victim despite her initial reluctance to make a complaint.
The injured party said today she was glad she made the complaint against 50-year-old Francis Sweeney for sexually assaulting her in a tent in Cork city two years ago and that it might save some other woman a similar ordeal at Sweeney’s hands.
Detective Sergeant Kieran O’Sullivan said Sweeney (also known as Ward) was already on the Sex Offenders Register for an older case where he was convicted and sentenced for rape.
In this case the injured party who was in her mid-twenties was sharing a tent with her boyfriend and Sweeney. She woke at around 3am on October 10 2018 to find that the accused was digitally interfering with her vagina.
The detective sergeant read her victim impact statement in which she directly addressed the accused man who had denied the crime but was found guilty by a jury earlier in the week.
“Francis Sweeney Ward, you did not have my consent but the truth always trumps lies.
“You have been found guilty, finally, after two years. You won’t be a monster that I was frightened I would see somewhere. You were just a person who broke the law and didn’t escape the consequences of your actions.
“If I stopped you doing this to any other vulnerable woman, then going through this was worth the pain. I am not a victim now. I am a survivor.”
Recalling the effect this sexual assault on her she said, “I lost endless nights of sleep and when I did finally sleep I would wake with night terrors.
“I’ve lost trust and am overly cautious of people now. I was a victim but not anymore. I might have been addicted to heroin and homeless living in a tent but that still doesn’t give anyone the right to lay a hand on you without the person’s permission.”
Judge Ó Donnabháin made the 18 months consecutive with another sentence being served by the accused.
“This young woman was living on the outer rim of the margins of society. Francis Sweeney sexually assaulted her at a time when she was a recovering heroin addict. She was a very vulnerable person,” he said.
The judge commended the excellence of Garda Michael Nagle’s response to the initial situation in the early hours of the morning where he managed to protect her from the dangerous situation she was in even though she was reluctant to make a complaint.
The judge also commented the professionalism of Det. Garda Michelle Quinn who followed up the investigation and gained the trust of the young woman who eventually decided to make a complaint.
The defendant appeared at Cork Circuit Criminal Court by video link from prison and at the end of the case he thanked the judge for the way he dealt with sentencing.