A young County Armagh woman who was the victim of a serious sexual assault has been commended by a judge for bringing her complaint to the police.
Her then partner – who cannot be named in order to protect the victim – at the time of the incident in April 2019, was sentenced for sexual assault by penetration at Craigavon Crown Court on Wednesday.
Her Honour Judge Roseanne McCormick QC praised the young woman’s bravery and “bringing her complaint through police interview, and her readiness to come to court”.
“The plea which has been entered, of course, fully indicates her complaint,” she added.
The defendant, who was originally charged with rape – an offence to which he pleaded not guilty – was later arraigned on a second charge of sexual assault by penetration to which he plead guilty. The rape charge was left on the books.
Handing the defendant a combination order of 100 hours community service and probation for two years, Judge McCormick outlined her reasoning for that particular sentence.
At the time of the actual offending the defendant was 17 and the victim was 16.
“The [pair] had known each other for about a year; they knew each other through school and prior to the date of the offence, they had been involved with each other for some months,” Judge McCormick explained.
“On that particular day – April 19, 2019 – they discussed entering into a sexual relationship. Together, they bought a packet of condoms and they went to the defendant’s home…
“They went to the defendant’s bedroom, explicitly with the intention of having sexual intercourse and using the condoms with which they had equipped themselves. This was going to be the first occasion on which either the victim or the defendant had sexual intercourse.
“In the course of their sexual intercourse which followed the victim became uncomfortable, panicked and began to shake. She hyperventilated and apparently she cried. She told the defendant to stop but he continued to have sexual intercourse with her.”
When he was interviewed by the police in August of 2020, the defendant confirmed that he had heard the complainant “asking him to stop and that she looked sad”.
When interviewed by the police, the defendant confirmed that he realised that she looked like she had been crying.
Judge McCormick continued: “He said that he did stop, but he didn’t stop immediately. He had told the victim that he would stop in a minute. And he told the police that he did stop when she said it hurt. Both parties agree that the defendant wore a condom.
“The defendant told the police that he believed that he had not ejaculated. However, the victim said that she saw white liquid in the condom. The two young people fixed their clothing, and apparently both went into the bathroom. And to quote the papers they messed about with the condoms, filling them with water, and then ultimately putting them in the bin.
“The victim and the defendant continued to see each other for a short time after this event. And they did seem to remain friends.
“However, the victim formed a new relationship where she discussed this incident with her new partner. This led to her calling the defendant and confronting him about the events of April. He apologised for his actions and for upsetting her. And he told the police when interviewed that he didn’t remember that phone call.
“Now, 15 months after the incident, the victim disclosed the details of this incident to her mother, after which the matter was reported to the police and that led to the victim being interviewed on August 5, 2020. The defendant was also interviewed on August 14.”
A pre-sentence report, prepared ahead of sentencing, described the accused as “an individual who was emotionally immature for his age” and that “he lacked a degree of guile”.
When the defendant discussed the events of April 19, 2019, with the probation service, “he confirmed that he did understand that his actions could have an impact on his victim’s future relationships and he acknowledged at the time of offending, that he had not seen her as a victim”.
The report added: “But that now with the passage of time, when he was being interviewed, he did indeed have a clearer view that she is indeed a victim”.
The report also highlighted that the defendant failed to demonstrate a capacity for thinking of his partner and that he was “thinking only of his own sexual gratification”.
Addressing a victim impact statement, Judge McCormick said the young woman “reports having regular uncomfortable thoughts of this incident, and indeed a particular image which comes into her mind when she thinks of it”.
“There is no question for this court that the defendant has harmed the victim by his conduct.”
A number of conditions were imposed on the defendant over the next two years which include not developing any personal relationship without first notifying a supervising officer and he is not to have unsupervised contact, either directly or indirectly, with children under the age of 18.