A fourteen-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a complete stranger as she walked through Penneys on Patrick Street in Cork.
51-year-old Michael Toner from MacSwiney Quay, Bandon, County Cork, denied the sexual assault but a jury convicted him of the offence at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.
Toner faced sentencing before Judge Brian O’Callaghan on Tuesday having been remanded in custody for the past week.
Garda Don McCarthy said there was a victim impact statement in which 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 part.
“I was very upset and crying. In the beginning I was thinking about it all the time,” she said.
At the end of her statement she said, “I hope he would be seen for who he is and for what he done.” She thanked Garda McCarthy and the Support After Crimes Services for their support.
Niamh Stewart, defence barrister, said, “He has never been before this court before. He has severe depression. He has been in custody for the last week. He has found it very difficult.” Ms Stewart characterised the offence at the lower end of the sexual assault offences and consisted of touching outside her clothes. The Director of Public Prosecutions had decided that the case could be dealt with at Cork District Court but Toner opted for trial by judge and jury at the circuit court.
“He is on medication. He will be on the Sex Offenders Register. He will lose his house, he will be homeless when he gets out and he will lose his job. His life is basically turned upside down,” Ms Stewart BL said.
Judge Brian O’Callaghan asked if there was any explanation for this behaviour from a man with no previous convictions related to anything like this. Ms Stewart said no explanation was available.
Judge O’Callaghan said, “I have in mind remanding him in custody until the next sessions and requiring a probation report. This court is troubled, that a man of 51, without any explanation whatsoever, would do this to this young girl.
“This court – just like the jury – was impressed by her evidence. The court has to make whatever effort it can to try and get behind the horrible incident.” The judge said he needed to get a report on the possibility of any further offending.
“This is a particular case that requires some effort to find out some more information on this man’s background and where this offence came from.
“Having lived 51 years on this planet he had nothing of this nature. Where did it come from?” the judge asked.
Sentencing was adjourned until April 22.