By Sonya McLean
A man who sexually assaulted a woman he claims he had just married in a Muslim ceremony has been jailed for five and half years.
The 54-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted by a jury at the Central Criminal Court last April, to sexually assaulting the woman at his home on December 1, 2017.
He had pleaded not guilty to three counts of rape, one of sexual assault and one of attempted rape of the woman in his Dublin home on various occasions over the weekend of December 1 to December 3, 2017.
The jury told Mr Justice Alex Owens last April, following eight and half hours deliberation on day-10 of the trial, that they could reach a majority verdict on one count but they were deadlocked in relation to the other four counts.
Today Mr Justice Owens described the man as “a schemer”.
“He didn’t get carried away. He did what he did because he thought he could get away with it.”
He said the man viewed the ceremony as permission to have sex with the woman. “He did this knowing she was not in a position to complain about this behaviour,” Mr Justice Owens said.
He said the man was considerably older than the woman and “more experienced in the ways of the world”.
“She was seeking asylum here and was ill-equipped to fend off his manipulation,” Mr Justice Owens said before he added that the whole incident had been planned.
He said the man would have been fully aware of the fact that the woman’s culture “does not tolerate sexual activities outside of marriage”.
Mr Justice Owens said the woman’s family have since disowned her and she has tried to take her own life. “It is clear from the evidence of the trial it will not be easy for her to find a husband,” the judge commented.
Mr Justice Owens acknowledged that a number of character references were handed in on behalf of the man, including his daughter “whom he is devoted to”.
“It is clear that there are two sides to his character. He lacks any remorse, by his own account he is the real victim,” Mr Justice Owens.
He imposed a sentence of six years and suspended the final six months on condition that the man keep the peace and be of good behaviour for those six months.
Mr Justice Owens imposed a four-year post release supervision order after he commented that he thinks that the man will still be “capable of committing sexual offences on his release from prison”.
He noted that a report from the Probation Service indicated that man would “need supervision with regard to his attitude to women”.
Mr Justice Owens warned the man that there is a consequence for not complying with the post release supervision without reasonable excuse and that failure to comply could lead to a term of imprisonment of 12 months.
A victim impact statement, read into the record by the garda, said the woman “greatly suffered with my mind. Again and again I ask why this happened but there was no answer to be found”.
She said her country, culture and also her family denied her the rights she should have as a woman.
The woman said the man should know how important it is that a woman have control over herself, both being the father of a daughter and a Muslim.
She said she suffered with depression and PTSD and has had tried to take her own life a number of times.
“I know I will never be the same person again. Each day I pray that I will get through the day,” the woman continued before she added that her family have since disowned her.
She said within her “merciless culture” the accused has brought “shame and hurt” both to herself and her family.
The woman said she has no friends and doesn’t see what lies ahead of her before she added that she has put faith in the gardaí in the criminal justice system.
She made reference to the fact that it was put before the jury that she made up the allegation in a bid to be allowed to stay Ireland. “There is no country in the world, where a Muslim woman would dare say she has been sexually assaulted when she has not”.
“No man, no woman, no government can say she (a woman) must behave one way and turn its back when a man does what he wants,” the woman concluded.
The trial heard that during a visit to Ireland in November 2017, the 36-year-old woman sought asylum in Ireland to avoid an arranged marriage in her native country.
She later made contact with a Muslim centre who arranged for a meeting between her and the accused man after the woman said she would be interested in meeting a man of the same faith to marry.
The investigating garda told Sean Gillane SC, prosecuting, that some class of ceremony was later performed between the accused and the woman.
The garda agreed that there was “disagreement as to the significance” of the ceremony and the trial was told it was “a precursor to marriage but not marriage itself”.
“Her evidence was clear that they were not married and she didn’t consider herself to be married,” Mr Gillane said referring to the woman’s evidence, which she gave via video-link, during the trial.
The garda agreed that after this ceremony the accused and the woman went back to his flat, with the man claiming she was his wife and the woman saying she was not his wife.
The accused attempted to hug the woman but she pushed him away as he started to try and pull her into his bedroom. She continued to try and push him away as he continued to touch her.
The woman asked him to stop but the man managed to get her into the bedroom where he directed her to take her clothes off. She was crying and he asked why she wouldn’t take her clothes off. She replied that she didn’t want to.
The man eventually left the bedroom and the woman remained there for some time as she was upset.
She later reported the man to gardaí and he was arrested in May 2018. He claimed that they had consensual sexual activity which terminated because of his inability to get an erection.
The garda agreed with Hugh Harnett SC, defending, that his client takes care of his 14-year-old daughter who lives with him.
He agreed that an updated psychological report concluded that the case has had a significant psychological impact on his client and “has troubled him greatly”.
Mr Hartnett submitted that his client is “a hard-working man who took his duties as a father very seriously”.
He said that many testimonials were submitted to the court on behalf of his client which outlined the work he does for a homeless charity.
“He has an unblemished previous character and is also a man who did significant good in donating both money and time to those who were less fortunate than he,” Mr Hartnett said.