Teen sexually assaulted in Cork University Hospital ward by elderly man; Judge says CUH management need to 'buck up'

Teen sexually assaulted in Cork University Hospital ward by elderly man; Judge says CUH management need to 'buck up'
Andrew O’Donovan from Butlersgift, Drimoleague, Co Cork.Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Cork Courts

A 17-year-old girl in hospital for serious injuries was put into a ward with a 62-year-old man with a long psychiatric history and in the early hours of the morning he sexually assaulted her.

Because of her physical injuries at the time she could not reach the panic button over her head. 

The only thing that brought a nurse to the room after the incident was the fact that the older man’s heart rate shot up on his heart monitor.

The accused man, Andrew O’Donovan of Butlersgift, Drimoleague, County Cork, was given an 18-month suspended jail term today for sexual assault – his first criminal conviction of any kind.

When the judge was told that O’Donovan could be named but that the injured party did not want her own name publicised, the judge said it was the name of the hospital – Cork University Hospital – that should be publicised in the case.

“Management of these hospitals would want to be bucked up a small bit,” the judge said during the case at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

“This is a very very troubling case. Two admitted patients side by side in a ward, one sexually assaulting the other. 

A 17-year-old girl in hospital for serious injuries was put into a ward with a 62-year-old man with a long psychiatric history and in the early hours of the morning he sexually assaulted her.
A 17-year-old girl in hospital for serious injuries was put into a ward with a 62-year-old man with a long psychiatric history and in the early hours of the morning he sexually assaulted her.

"You have to question in circumstances like this what management was doing. This is a very acute problem in the hospital.

“You have to question about the management of the ward system. 

"For this girl to be beside a man with a diagnosed schizophrenic condition who was attending mental health services since the 1980s for anxiety, agitation, euphoria and insomnia. They are inside in a ward side by side.

“There appears to be no system of management or supervision. The only thing that brought it to hospital notice was his heart rate rising and they thought he was having a heart attack. 

"This was minutes after the incident happened. You have to question the placing of these patients in this ward together,” the judge said.

The victim said, “I thought I would be safe in hospital and never imagined I would be in danger." 

"When the defendant pulled back the curtain around my bed around 5.30am and entered my cubicle and began to sexually assault me I was petrified and helpless as the call button was above me and I couldn’t reach it due to my injuries.

“I had to leave the hospital only 11 days into my stay due to the incident. I was meant to stay for six weeks.

“From this horrible situation I really hope paediatrics are raised to 18 years of age instead of 16 years,” she said.

Detective Garda Caroline Keogh said the defendant approached the teenager’s bed and touched her breasts and vagina.

He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the teenager.

The incident started by O’Donovan, who was one of three men in beds in the four-bed ward, asking her the time and then sitting down in the chair beside her bed, asking her name, what her parents did, and occasionally tapping her on the arm. 

He asked her out to dinner or to the cinema.

“He was then stroking up and down her arm. Then he moved on to her breast. 

"She pulled her arm across her breasts… He put his hand on her vagina. Then he stopped touching her. He leaned over her and tried to kiss her. He kept saying, ‘You will write to me. Promise me you write to me.’” 

The suspended sentence was imposed on the accused in his absence. He was in court earlier in the day but left before sentencing. 

The judge said that to say the least, “the man has limitations.” 

Detective Garda Keogh said he lives in a remote area and his wife died at Christmas. 

“He has lots of chickens,” Det. Garda Keogh said following a recent visit to the defendant’s home in order to arrest him and bring him before the court.

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