A woman who was sexually assaulted by her estranged husband recorded him on camera telling her he had every right to touch her, a court has heard.
The 26-year-old Kildare resident, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his former wife and their child, received a five-year prison sentence with the final 15 months suspended.
Sentencing him, Ms Justice Karen O'Connor said this was a frightening and menacing ordeal for the victim who was attacked in her own home where she had a right to feel safe.
She set a headline sentence of seven and a half years, which she reduced to five years in light of the mitigating factors. She said the most significant of these was the man's guilty plea which spared the victim the ordeal of a contested trial.
She said the fact that the defendant suffered an acquired brain injury in 2017 could not be ignored as part of the sentencing. She said there was no dispute that he suffered a brain trauma and that this had and continues to have an effect on him, including his emotional regularity.
In light of this fact, she suspended the final 15 months on condition that he re-engage with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland in relation to rehabilitation. She also ordered that he keep the peace for three years after his release from custody and engage with the Probation Services in relation to victim awareness and other programmes.
The woman's 999 call in the midst of the attack, in which she was distressed and crying for help, was played in court at the man's sentence hearing, along with two videos the woman recorded on her phone.
In these clips, which lasted a combined total of 10 minutes, the woman repeatedly shouted, pleaded and begged the man to leave her house, while he told her: “I can't stop looking at you, you're perfect” and “I'm not taking this crap. Until it's over, I'm your husband and I have every right to touch you.”
The woman got increasingly scared and tearful, telling the man repeatedly: “Please go. Please leave my house, I'm begging you.”
The video recordings ended when the man lunged at the woman. The court heard he pushed her on the bed and started attempting to rape her as she screamed in distress.
During the attack, she managed to call 999 using the emergency function on her phone. In this call, the woman repeatedly screamed for help and was at times inaudible as gardaí worked quickly to pinpoint her location and reassure her that help was on the way.
The man then took the phone from the woman and told gardaí the woman was his wife. He was told gardaí were on their way regardless.
The man pleaded guilty to the aggravated sexual assault of his estranged wife at her home in Co Kildare on November 19th, 2020. Two other counts of sexual assault were taken into consideration.
He has one previous conviction for assault causing harm to another person.
I lost control
The court heard he suffered a significant acquired brain injury after a fall a few years ago, which has affected his personality. He has one child with his former wife and the relationship was marred by violence on his behalf in the past.
A local detective garda told Fiona McGowan BL, prosecuting, that the couple's relationship broke up in 2020 and the woman and her child moved in to her parents' house. On the day in question, the woman told the man she had burst her car tyre and he offered to come around and fix it.
After entering the house, the man repeatedly started groping the woman as she tried to get away from him and repeatedly told him to stop. At one point she said: “What are you going to do, try to rape me?” to which he laughed and replied: “Do you want me to? I don't know.”
The woman rang the man's mother and she remonstrated with him to leave, but he did not listen to her. The man's parents were in court for the sentence hearing.
When arrested in the wake of the sexual assault, the man told gardaí: “I lost control. I want to say that I am married to this woman.” He has been in custody since his arrest.
Sentencing him on Wednesday, Ms Justice O'Connor noted that as a result of the attack the woman feels scared in her home and has placed locks on her bedroom door and CCTV at the house.
She noted that, in a letter to the court, the man has expressed shame and remorse at his actions.
A Probation Service assessment places him at a low risk of reoffending if he continues to engage with treatment for his brain injury.
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.
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.