A 57-year-old man who put his hand on the leg of a 19-year-old woman sitting beside him on a bus in Cork city was found guilty of sexual assault yesterday despite his claim that it was merely an empathetic tap to say “be happy”.
Judge Con O’Leary said at the end of the case against Peter King, of 30 Kilbrack Grove, Skehard Rd, Cork: “I have no hesitation in convicting him. I am going to ask for a victim impact statement and for a probation report [on the accused].”
Sentencing was adjourned at Cork District Court until September 12. Diarmuid Kelleher, defence solicitor, said King had reached the age of 57 without a conviction of any kind before yesterday.
The young woman was waiting for the bus from Cork city to a suburb at around 9am on February 12, 2018, when she met the defendant, who started talking to her as they waited. When the bus arrived she sat down beside him.
She told Garda Deirdre Hayes that he touched the inside of her leg, around her left thigh, outside her clothing.
In his evidence, King said he tapped the outside of her left leg in an empathetic gesture because he thought she looked sad.
Judge O’Leary asked the defendant: “Why would you think being touched by a stranger would make her less sad? Why would you think for this ‘sad’ young person that being touched by an old male stranger would make her happier rather than sadder?” King replied: “I just said: ‘Don’t be sad.’ ”
Judge O’Leary told the defendant he could leave the witness box and commented: “I note you are not answering the question.”
Inspector Brian O’Donovan said earlier in the case in cross-examination of the defendant: “You put your hand on her thigh twice and rubbed the inside of her thigh?”
The defendant replied: “Not true. My nature is just being a nice guy. As you get older you try to attain those qualities.
“If it happened it was not with bad intent. Some people are empathetic. Some people are expressive with their hands. That is my nature. I am not a bad person.”
“Was it inappropriate?” Insp O’Donovan asked. The defendant replied: “It was silly. I tapped her leg and it was silly.”
King said that his wife had often told him that he used his hands too much when he was expressing himself.
The defendant denied the complainant’s allegations that he asked her to sit beside him in the first place, asked her to hold his hand because he was cold and he put his hand on her thigh.
“Not true, absolutely not true. I tapped her by her side, by her knee. In hindsight that was silly. I should not have been so empathetic. She looked sad,” he said.
The defendant said that they were having a casual conversation about the weather, climate change, and global warming.
Judge O’Leary said he had to take account of the complainant’s personal circumstances.
“No disrespect to her, but she might not be as robust in personality as another person might have been. Arising out of her personal circumstances that would be consistent with her uncertainty. I have no hesitation in convicting him.”