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04 Oct 2022

Woman sexually assaulted by a stranger on a Limerick bus

Woman sexually assaulted by a stranger on a Limerick bus

A WOMAN who was sexually assaulted on a Limerick bus by a stranger has asked her assailant “how would you feel if somebody did this to your daughter?”

The defendant - Thomas Harty, aged 59, of Clondrinagh Halting Site, Limerick city - can be named as the victim cannot be identified. He pleaded guilty to sexual assault on a city bus on July 21, 2017.

Prosecuting barrister, John O'Sullivan, instructed by state solicitor Padraig Mawe, said the victim, aged in her mid-twenties at the time, was waiting outside Dunnes Stores in the city centre at 7.55pm.

“She was listening to music. She noticed a man moving closer to her. He was upset. He said, ‘I really miss Tommy’. She said some conciliatory words. He said she was a ‘lovely girl’ and they shook hands. She did not feel threatened. He appeared drunk and was carrying a bag of cans,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

The barrister said the woman got on the bus as did Mr Harty. Despite there being many seats vacant Mr Harty sat beside her.

“He said he ‘missed Tommy’ and then, ‘Do you think I’m lying?’ He started getting aggressive, nudging her shoulder and laughing. She felt uncomfortable and nervous. He asked to kiss her and she said 'no'.

“She asked to be left out. He stood up but kept his hand on the bar where the button was. He asked for a kiss. She pushed back, he fell and bounced up. He grabbed her right between the legs and vagina. She pushed him, slapped his face and said, ‘How dare you’. She got off the bus,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

The investigating officer, Detective Garda Sean O’Hagan agreed with the sequence of events.

The victim later made a complaint of sexual assault. After Mr Harty was arrested and questioned he said he had had a few drinks in town and accepted “some sort of incident took place” but denied to gardai there was a sexual assault.

Mr O’Sullivan read out her victim impact statement. She said she is cautious when she is going on any mode of transport and has needed psychological counselling.

“As a woman I should not have to live like this. I have developed anxiety and have to fight demons everyday. I have developed trust issues in relationships and have now learned to defend myself. My life was flipped upside down,” read out Mr O’Sullivan.

She concluded by saying, “How would you feel if somebody did this to your daughter? You have done wrong, you know you have”.

Aaron Desmond BL, who represented Mr Harty, said his client offers an unreserved apology. He said Mr Harty deserves credit for his plea so the victim wasn’t put through a trial.

“He did engage meaningfully with gardai. The only thing he did not admit to was sexual assault. It happened in a matter of seconds and is at the lower end of the spectrum in that regard. It was out of character,” said Mr Desmond.

Judge Tom O’Donnell said it may only have lasted a couple of seconds but the consequences of it are “abundantly clear” from her victim impact statement.

“She was on a bus minding her own business when she was grabbed in this fashion - it is highly unacceptable,” said Judge O’Donnell, who imposed a 12 month jail sentence with the last six months suspended.

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