A LIMERICK man who sexually assaulted a student as she slept has avoided a prison sentence.
Ross Ryan, aged 29, who has an address at deValera Park, Thomondgate admitted “trying to have sex” with the young woman during a house party in the city five years ago.
Limerick Circuit Court heard the victim – who was aged 19 at the time – was asleep in a bedroom having gone to the home of another student following a night out.
The investigating garda told John O’Sullivan BL, instructed by state solicitor Padraig Mawe, there were a number of other people in the house on the night and that a considerable amount of alcohol had been consumed during the party
The court heard the incident happened sometime after the victim had consensual sex with the student she went home with.
Mr Ryan entered the bedroom in the early hours of the morning and got into the bed with the woman while she slept.
The victim described how she initially thought it was the man she had slept with (earlier) and did not react but that she “freaked out” when he climbed on top of her and she realised he was a stranger.
After the other people in the house became aware of the commotion, the woman returned home and gardai were alerted.
The defendant, the court heard, was asleep in an attic bedroom with his boxer shorts on “inside out” when gardai arrived a number of hours later.
He admitted entering the bedroom and ‘spooning’ and cuddling the woman before engaging in foreplay. He told gardai “she wasn’t pushing me away” and that he believed she was “well into it”.
Imposing sentence this Wednesday, Judge Tom O’Donnell noted there had been a “confluence of factors” which delayed the matter coming before the courts.
He noted the “profound effect” the offence had on the victim who developed a “deep frustration” over the way the case was progressed.
“Little did I know that the nerve-wracking and painfully drawn-out process of getting a sexual assault case to court would last almost five years, five years in which I have been stuck in a miserable limbo, waiting for judgment day and unable to move on with my life,” said the woman in her victim impact statement.
The woman described how being the victim of a sexual assault “continues to colour almost every aspect of my life” and that the defendant had stolen the best years of her life from her.
“My early twenties, a time that is usually carefree and full of excitement and adventure,” she said.
Judge O’Donnell was told the victim did not know the defendant and that there was nothing to indicate “flirting or anything of that sort” prior to the incident.
Lorcan Connolly BL, defending said his client accepts his behaviour was “entirely unacceptable” and that it was very distressing for the young woman.
He told the court the apprentice electrician has no previous convictions and that he has not come to the attention of gardai since the incident.
“He did one very wrong thing five years ago”, he said adding there are no difficulties with alcohol or drugs in the background.
Judge O’Donnell said the defendant’s guilty plea was a “public acknowledgment of his culpability and wrongdoing” and that he spared the victim the possibility of “robust cross examination” during a trial
He commented that Mr Ryan’s actions on the night had been “reckless rather then intentional” and that he “unreservedly accepts the error of his ways”.
He said he was obliged to consider all of the evidence and that whatever sentence he imposed “must be appropriate and proportionate”.
He imposed an 18 month prison sentence which he suspended for 18 months.
Given the sentence, Mr Ryan’s name will not be placed on the sex offenders register.