Man found guilty of sexually assaulting woman visiting Cape Clear Island

Man found guilty of sexually assaulting woman visiting Cape Clear Island

A ferryman and barman at Cape Clear Island was found guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman visiting the island.

A barman at Cape Clear Island was found guilty of sexually assaulting a young woman visiting the island when he drove her home from the Club Chléire pub two years ago.

The jury reached a unanimous verdict of guilty in the case against Duncan Harper, 35, at Cork Circuit Criminal Court on two counts of sexually assaulting the young woman on a summer’s night in 2019.

Prosecution barrister Brendan Kelly said a victim impact statement would be required before sentencing of Duncan Harper for the sexual assaults. 

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin adjourned sentencing until June 30.

Bail refused 

Defence barrister, Stephen O’Donoghue asked for the accused to be remanded on bail until then. The judge refused and remanded Duncan Harper in custody for sentencing at the end of the month.

The judge said the accused could be identified but not the young woman who was sexually assaulted.

The complainant was a visitor to the island and she said that she had been awake for almost 24 hours at the time of the disputed incident. She said she dozed off in the front seat of Duncan Harper’s van and that the accused man put his hand over and put it inside her top and her bra and on to her right breast. She said the second sexual assault consisted of him putting his hand up her dress, high up her leg close to her vaginal area.

The young woman testified that there was a music session in the Club Chléire pub that night that went on well into the early hours of the morning of June 23 2019.

“Duncan went to close up the bar at 5am ... I was going to walk home. Duncan offered me a lift home. Initially, I refused. But I would have seen him talking to people I trusted and there was two men in the van. 

"Duncan dropped the two men on the way to where I was staying. He said he could drop me home or would he give me a tour of the island.

“I was being polite. I said, ‘I don’t mind’. But I was exhausted. I was up since 7am. He went up a massive hill to the opposite side of the island. 

"I realised I did not want to be there. I was definitely out of my comfort zone.

“At a certain point he leaned in to kiss me. I said, ‘No’. I turned towards the door. I felt totally uncomfortable and quite frightened. I turned away and said, ‘No’.

“I was trying to make small chat. I was up nearly 24 hours. I had a few drinks (in the pub earlier). I started falling in and out of sleep. He put his hand inside my top. He put his hand inside my bra. He felt my right breast. He told me to relax, he would drive me home.

“I would have been going in and out of sleep – aware his hand was inside my dress, on my leg, on the upper part of my leg, my right leg. It was a struggle to get his hand away.” 

She said that when she eventually arrived back where she was staying she fell into her friend’s arms and told her what happened.

Defence barrister Stephen O’Donoghue cross-examined her and said the defendant denied that this happened and that he did not sexually assault her in any way and did not offer her a tour or bring her on a tour of the island that morning.

The complainant, who is in her early twenties, became upset and said, “I would not be here if my recollection of the evening was untrue. This has battered my confidence. It has taken two years from my life. Why on earth would I put myself through that?” 

Mr O’Donoghue said there were so many inconsistencies in the complainant’s evidence there had to be a doubt and that the accused had to be given the benefit of this doubt and acquitted. Brendan Kelly for the prosecution said her account had been consistent throughout her statements to gardaí and her evidence in the trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court.

Duncan Harper did not give evidence.

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