Former RTÉ journalist to be sentenced for sexual assault of woman while she slept

A journalist employed by RTÉ will be sentenced next week for sexual assaulting a woman while she was sleeping in his bed.
Former RTÉ journalist to be sentenced for sexual assault of woman while she slept

Declan Brennan

A journalist employed by RTÉ will be sentenced next week for sexually assaulting a woman while she was sleeping in his bed.

Mícheál Ó Leidhin (38) of Sunnyside, Malahide Road, Artane was convicted of sexual assault at his former home in south Dublin in the early hours of the morning of May 13th, 2018.

Ó Leidhin, a native of Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, had denied the offence, but his lawyers told a sentence hearing at the Central Criminal Court on Monday that he now accepts the verdict of the jury.

Garda Niall Freyne told Michael Delaney SC, prosecuting, that the complainant, who is legally entitled to anonymity, was out drinking in a Dublin pub with a female friend when they met the defendant who knew her friend.

The group went on to another pub and the woman and Ó Leidhin were kissing. At the end of the night, Ó Leidhin asked the woman to go back to his flat in south Dublin, and they got a taxi there.

In the flat they were kissing and Ó Leidhin engaged in consensual sexual foreplay type activity. Ó Leidhin suggested they have penetrative sex, but the woman said no but left open the possibility that they could do this the next morning, Mr Delaney told the court.

In his account to gardaí, Ó Leidhin claimed that he was unable to get an erection.

The woman then fell asleep and woke later to find Ó Leidhin on top her of her and groping her breasts. She said she told him to stop and get off her. He did stop and told her “sorry I'm horny”.

The court heard that she was annoyed at the man and told him that she was clearly asleep.

The woman said she went back to sleep. Later that night he drove her home and over the following days she texted the defendant expressing annoyance at what had happened.

He met up with her, and they spoke for an hour and “they agreed to differ” about what had happened, Garda Freyne said. In April 2019 the woman went to gardaí and made a complaint of sexual assault.

The following July he met with gardaí and said that after falling asleep together he had woken up and started to kiss the woman and got on top of her. He said he had tried to wake her up and when she did wake up, she was annoyed at what he was doing while she was still asleep.

He told gardaí that he told her that they had engaged in sexual foreplay and that he had been trying to wake the woman to continue “fooling around”.

Gda Freyne told the court Ó Leidhin has no other criminal convictions and has never come to Garda attention before or since the incident.

Investigation

He agreed with Bernard Condon SC, defending, that he was fully co-operative with the investigation and has a good working history as a journalist.

Mr Condon said that his client has been suspended from his position in RTÉ and will have difficulties ever working in his chosen field again. He handed in a number of references from long-standing acquaintances who described the defendant as a supportive friend and described his shame and sorrow at the events of the night.

Mr Condon said his client is remorseful and that having put his understanding of what took place to the jury he accepts the jury verdict.

Reading from her own victim impact statement the woman said that while she wished to retain her anonymity, she did not want Ó Leidhin to remain anonymous.

She said the assault had left her traumatised and feeling lost in the world. She said she was sexually violated when she was at her most vulnerable.

She said the night of the attack was the last time she would ever go to sleep feeling safe from attack.

She said she replays the assault again and again and has felt depressed and suicidal. She said she did attempt to kill herself by overdosing and ended up moving back in with her parents outside of Dublin to cope with the trauma and stress.

She was unable to get public transport for a long time because the “touch from a stranger was unbearable”.

“My whole life and sense of self have been destroyed,” she said. She said she has since found it extremely difficult to trust men and would completely freeze during any intimate sexual activity.

She said that giving evidence and being cross-examined was unbelievably distressing and she felt she was going to have a heart attack.

Justice Karen O'Connor adjourned sentencing to Monday next and remanded the defendant on continuing bail.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help.

This article was amended at 7.39pm on 16/5/22.

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