An Armagh man who penetrated a woman with his fingers whilst she slept has been handed community service.
The 32-year-old, who committed the offence over three years ago, wept in the dock as he learned his fate.
Richard George Byrne, 32, of Glen Mhacha, appeared for sentencing on sexual assault by penetration at Newry Crown Court on Monday.
Prosecuting barrister Richard Weir QC outlined that on August 29, 2015, the injured party had been out drinking at a property on the Newtownhamilton Road in Armagh.
She then went with others to a small bar in Armagh, where she consumed more alcohol.
The group left to get a carry out. The injured party observed a member of the group speaking to a male, later identified as the defendant.
The injured party accepted that she had taken alcohol and said that she did not previously know the defendant.
Everyone then went back to the house at which the injured party was staying the night.
After going to bed, the injured party awoke on her side and felt something in her vagina.
Although originally believing it to be the defendant’s penis, whilst giving evidence she confessed that she could not be sure.
This led to the charge being changed to one of sexual assault by penetration by fingers.
The injured party asked Byrne to leave; this led to the scene in which the police arrived.
During interview, the defendant described getting into one bed with a female and being told to leave.
He then went into a second room he believed to be empty until he sensed movement and denied any sexual contact.
Mr Weir stated: “The delay in the case has been lengthy but this is not through any action by the accused.
“This was an unpleasant and nasty offence but there is nothing for the prosecution to point to as being an aggravating feature.”
He added: “He has a very limited record, a breach of a non-molestation, a caution and nothing for offences of a sexual nature.”
Defence barrister Greg Berry QC said: “There is not much disagreement, given the case law this case should have a starting point of 18 months to two years after contest.
“This is a case of digital penetration with no aggravating features and there are a number of matters which should have an impact on the sentence.”
He continued: “Firstly, his plea of guilty, although late in the day, but there were consultations which led to a change in charge.
“There were also tribal issues which were surrendered upon the plea. There have also been signs of genuine remorse from Mr Byrne”.
Mr Berry highlighted that the offence occurred in August 2015 but yet it did not come before the court until September 2018.
He added: “This is a man with no record, he has been assessed as having a low likelihood of re-offending. This was a low point in his life, he was drinking too much.
“He has no recollection of the events of that night but he did not persist in the conduct when challenged.”
His Honour Judge Gordon Kerr QC stated: “Mr Byrne pleaded guilty at a late stage but that was after consultation between counsel on both sides.
“You took advantage of a vulnerable woman who was sleeping at the time. In cases of penetration it is clear that it crosses the custodial threshold.”
He continued: “There are factors which affect my decision, you pleaded guilty acknowledging you committed a sexual offence, you have also been assessed by probation service as having a low risk of reoffending.
“You are not a person who is viewed as a danger to the community and your general background is good.”
Byrne was sentenced to a combination order of 80 hours of community service and two years probation.
He was also ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register for five years.
Byrne wept in the dock as sentence was passed.
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