Judge Tom O'Donnell
A well-known GAA figure has successfully appealed his conviction for sexually assaulting two teenage sisters over a two-year-period.
The 58-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted at the district court in November 2014 of sexually assaulting the sisters at his home in a village in East Limerick on dates during 2010 and 2012.
He was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment but had been on bail pending the appeal which concluded on Monday.
It had been alleged the defendant inappropriately touched the girls – who were aged 12 and 14 – as they were lying against him on the couch watching television.
Judge Tom O’Donnell was told the girls were interviewed by specially-trained gardai after their mother became concerned following a conversation with the older of the two girls.
On Monday, a video recording of a garda interview with the defendant was played to the court.
During the interview, which lasts for over an hour, the man agrees that, with hindsight, his actions were “inappropriate” and “not on”.
He agrees he is a “touchy feely” person but on several occasions insists he did not sexually abuse the girls and is not a paedophile.
”I would never lay a hand on them that way,” he said adding that he never became sexually aroused. The defendant told gardai his actions were not sexual and were a form of “affectionism”.
In their evidence, the girls agreed they never complained to the defendant and during interview he said he “didn’t realise” that they felt uncomfortable.
The man’s long-term partner, who is related to the girls, told the court she never saw the defendant inappropriately touch the girls.
After hearing submissions from Mark Nicholas BL, Judge O’Donnell said the case “boils down to a question of intent” and he commented that this would have caused “substantial bother” to any potential jury.
He said he was not satisfied, based on the evidence, that the case had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.