A MAN who sexually assaulted an 11-year-old schoolgirl in broad daylight has been jailed for six months.
The 57-year-old had pleaded guilty to a charge relating to an incident in the Limerick village where the girl lives.
During a sentencing hearing earlier this year, Detective Sergeant Vincent Brick of the divisional Protective Services Unit said the defendant approached the fifth-class pupil as she was walking home shortly after 3pm on May 15, 2017.
He said the girl’s mother knew “something was not quite right” when she arrived home later than normal and became concerned that something untoward had happened.
When questioned by her mother, the girl began crying and told her a man had hugged her and put his hand down the front of her pants and inside her underwear.
Local gardai were contacted and specially-trained detectives from the Protective Services Unit were assigned to investigate the matter.
A suspect was identified and CCTV footage was obtained which confirmed he interacted with the schoolgirl for 11 minutes around the time of the offence.
During interview, the defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, accepted he had “an exchange” with the young girl.
The man, who had been drinking on the day of the offence, initially told gardai he had just kissed the back of the girl’s hand before later stating that he could not deny the allegations as the girl was “not a liar”.
Judge Tom O’Donnell was told he previously received a suspended sentence more than a decade ago for sexually assaulting another child.
In a letter to the judge, the girl said she was bullied and mocked when she returned to school and that she is afraid the man will do it again.
She said what happened has affected her family and that she still suffers flashbacks and feels “sad and miserable and alone”.
Imposing sentence this Wednesday, the judge accepted the offence was an “aberration rather than premeditated” but said the nature of the assault and disparity in age were aggravating factors.
He said while the offence was “not the worst” in the context of sexual offences, a custodial sentence was merited.
He imposed an 18 month prison sentence – suspending the final 12 months.