Sentencing delayed for man who sexually assaulted woman in her sleep

Galway Daily courts Man charged with possessing images of child sex abuse
credit: Robert Linsdell CC BY 2.0 'The Courthouse, Courthouse Square, Galway'

Final sentencing for a man who sexually assaulted a woman in her sleep has been adjourned for the probation service to complete a risk assessment.

Brian Finnegan (29), of Kilsallagh, Williamstown, pleaded guilty last October to having sexually assaulted a then 22 year old woman while she was sleeping at a house on University Road on October 15, 2017.

He appeared before Galway Circuit Court for sentencing, but finalisation of the case had to be put back while the court awaited more information.

Garda Nicole Duggan gave evidence that the young woman had been on a night out with her friends, and returned to her friend’s house alone, going to sleep in her friend’s bed.

She woke up to Finnegan lying on top of her, and when she tried to get up her pushed her back down on the bed and shushed her.

He then sexually assaulted her, but she was able to push him off her while he was trying to take his boxers off.

She shouted for help, bringing her friend into the room to help her. This friend ordered Finnegan to leave the house immediately.

Finnegan did not live in the house, but had been drinking that night with friends, and was staying over with one of them.

Garda Duggan said that the young woman told her family and boyfriend what had happened the next day, and Finnegan was subsequently questioned by gardaí.

He told Garda Duggan during the interview that he didn’t know the woman, but decided to “try it on” when he saw her.

In a victim impact statement the visibly upset young woman read to the court she said that it was meant to just be an ordinary girls’ night out in Galway.

But instead she “woke up to the horror and shock of having someone I didn’t know on top of me trying to undress me”.

She said that she felt scared, lonely, and afraid to go out in the aftermath of this, and still struggles with feeling safe.

“Today I stand here struggling to talk, but I hold my head up high,” she concluded.

Speaking on behalf of the defence, barrister Michael Clancy said that his client had apologised to the victim through mutual acquaintances, and wished to apologise again in court.

He added that the young man was immediately “distraught” by what happened, describing it as out of character for him.

The defence said that he was so upset, he went to see his parish priest before telling his parents what happened.

A letter from that priest about his character, along with a letter from his employer, were presented to the court.

Judge McCabe set the headline sentence for this incident at three years in prison before taking mitigating or aggravating factors into account.

The early plea of guilty, full admissions made to gardaí, and the fact that he has no previous criminal history were mitigating factors the judge said.

But the judge heard that a detailed risk assessment by the Probation Service has not yet been completed, and said it must be before he can complete sentencing.

The young woman is “justifiably outraged” at having her privacy and bodily integrity violated Judge McCabe said, noting that Finnegan has been registered as a sex offender since pleading guilty.

The case will come back before the Circuit Court for finalisation on May 27.