'Unusual' sex assault on teen girl at Penneys in Cork

'Unusual' sex assault on teen girl at Penneys in Cork
Penneys on St. Patrick's Street in Cork city.Picture Denis Minihane.

AN unusual sexual assault saw a 51-year-old man grabbing a 14-year-old girl as she walked past him in the afternoon in a busy city centre store in Cork City.

Michael Toner, aged 51, from MacSwiney Quay, Bandon, Co Cork, denied the sexual assault in Penneys on Patrick Street in Cork but a jury convicted him of the offence at Cork Circuit Criminal Court today.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said, “This is a somewhat unusual case of sexual assault, happening in a public place, in a store, in daylight business hours and where there was no previous contact between the parties. 

"He had no knowledge of this girl and there was nothing to bring them together other than passing each other in the shop. 

"He dropped his hand on the girl and touched her intimately.

“He admitted he had contact with her but he denied there was any sexual intent. The jury found otherwise. 

"The girl is correct in her account of what happened to her. She was shocked and confused as to why it happened it was so unexpected.”

Detective Garda Brian Murphy said the man was confronted by the injured party’s mother in the store but he walked away and was not arrested until a later date.

The teenager said she was in town with her mother that day on July 3, 2018, when the man walked into her path and grabbed her private parts.

“I was very upset and crying. In the beginning I was thinking about it all the time,” she said.

Niamh Stewart, defence barrister, said, “He has never been before this court before. He has severe depression. He has found [being remanded in custody] very difficult.”

While the defendant has a small number of previous convictions they were described as minor matters and none related to this type of behaviour.

Ms Stewart characterised the offence at the lower end of the sexual assault offences and consisted of touching outside her clothes.

Ms Stewart said the defendant had a job waiting for him on his release from prison and had family support against the background of him suffering from depression.

“He is on medication. He will be on the Sex Offenders Register. His life is basically turned upside down,” Ms Stewart BL said.

Judge Ó Donnabháin imposed an 18-month jail sentence backdated to when he went into custody after the jury guilty verdict on February 11. The judge suspended the balance of the sentence from today.

A probation report found the accused to be a low risk of reoffending.

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