Army officer who sexually assaulted female soldier dismissed from Defence Forces

Army Officer Who Sexually Assaulted Female Soldier Dismissed From Defence Forces
Col Campion remarked that the officer’s conduct was “entirely unacceptable” and represented a breach of the standards of discipline expected of members of the Defence Forces. Photo: Collins
Share this article

Seán McCárthaigh

An army officer who sexually assaulted a female soldier at a military barracks in Dublin three years ago has been dismissed from the Defence Forces by a military court.

The Military Judge, Colonel Michael Campion, said the serious nature of the offending by the officer was “incompatible with continued service” and constituted “an egregious breach of the ethos of [military] service.”


However, he suspended a sentence of six months in custody for the offence for a period of 12 months on condition that the officer bound himself to keep the peace.

Col Campion remarked that the officer’s conduct was “entirely unacceptable” and represented a breach of the standards of discipline expected of members of the Defence Forces.

While the nature of the sexual assault might be regarded at the lower end of the scale, the judge said it had to be regarded as “far more serious” in the context of military service, especially involving a senior ranking member of the Defence Forces.

Addressing the officer, who showed no emotion to the sentence, Col Campion said it was “a high price to pay for a one-off lapse.”


Social function

The officer, who cannot be named by order of the judge, was found guilty by a General Court Martial last October of sexually assaulting a female non-commissioned officer following a social function at McKee Barracks in Dublin on June 25th, 2020.

The court heard he had moved his open palms up and down the victim’s back while saying “come on, come on” while they were in the officer’s mess.

Following the conclusion of a six-week trial, a military board (jury) of seven senior-ranking Defence Forces personnel also found the officer guilty of assaulting the same NCO on the same occasion by moving towards her in a manner which led her to apprehend that she was going to be assaulted.

The court heard the officer had been brought to the mess by two female NCOs after being found asleep in a drunken state outside a gymnasium, while dressed in uniform, following a barbeque on the base which occurred at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.


All the offences occurred during a 30-minute period before midnight following an event organised by the military’s Joint Task Force which provided assistance to the health authorities in combating the spread of Covid-19.

However, the officer was found not guilty of three other charges of sexual assault involving the two NCOs and not guilty of a separate charge of assaulting the second female solider.

Guilty pleas

At the start of the trial, the officer also pleaded guilty to five separate charges including two counts of assault where he placed his arms around the torso of the NCO who had been sexually assaulted, as well as forcibly grabbing the wrist of the other soldier.

He also pleaded guilty to two counts of drunkenness contrary to Section 142 of the Defence Act 1954 for being asleep in a chair and being unable to speak coherently and one count of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline contrary to Section 168 of the Defence Act 1954 by admitting he had said “I’m a prick” to the two NCOs.


During the trial, the Director of Military Prosecutions withdrew four other Section 168 charges, while the judge also directed the acquittal of the officer on three other charges including one of sexual assault.

At a sentencing hearing on Tuesday at the Military Justice Centre in McKee Barracks, the judge noted that the accused had no memory of the event of the night due to his level of intoxication.

The judge said a range of disciplinary and criminal offences had flowed from the officer’s intoxication.


He said it was unlikely they would have been committed if the officer had not been under the influence of alcohol, while he also doubted if some of the offences would have been committed if the soldiers who helped him were male.


Col Campion said the offences were not passing or momentary but were persistent and sustained, albeit over a short period of time.

He observed that one of the NCOs, who had already been sexually assaulted, was apprehensive of being assaulted again when left on her own with the officer who had “shooed” away two other male soldiers who had offered her help.

The officer was sentenced to dismissal from the Defence Forces and six months in custody for the sexual assault conviction and periods in custody ranging from 1-3 months for the assault offences with all sentences to run concurrently.

He was also sentenced to fines ranging from 10-14 days’ pay and severely reprimanded for the three lesser disciplinary offences.

However, the judge suspended all periods in custody and reduced the fines to nil because of the severe financial impact which the accused would suffer because of his dismissal.

Col Campion said he would not impose any post-release supervision order on the officer as there were “no grounds for concern.”

He granted an application by the officer’s counsel, Feargal Kavanagh SC, that his name should not be published pending an appeal to the Court of Appeal which must be submitted within 21 days.

The judge also lifted some of the extensive reporting restrictions that had been imposed during the trial.

Col Campion observed that some offences committed by members of the Defence Forces were far more serious that similar ones committed by civilians when they took place in a service environment.

Aggravating factors

The judge said the officer’s conduct undermined the integrity, effectiveness and reputation of the Defence Forces.

He outlined the aggravating factors in the case which included the officer’s rank and experience with over 15 years of service and “a serious lack of self-discipline and control.”

Col Campion said there was also “a measure of aggression” in his conduct which had to be physically resisted by his victims.

He noted that one of the NCOs had been shocked by “the intensity of the engagement.”

In the officer’s favour, the judge said he had entered guilty pleas to some offences, while he also had a clean disciplinary record and was “on a career with an upward trajectory” given his annual performance ratings of “very good” and “excellent.”

Col Campion said the initial apology offered within a few days by the officer to his victims was somewhat tempered by the fact that he did not realise at the time that there was an accusation of sexual assault.

The court heard that since the incident, the officer had been formally paraded and chastised by his commanding officer as well as being passed over for promotion twice.

In addition, he was unable to perform “acting up” duties which would have been worth about €3,000, while he will no longer be considered for overseas UN duties.

Col Campion noted that the officer had also given up alcohol and was receiving counselling.

Counsel for the accused, who had described the case as “beyond tragic” had previously outlined how he was regretful, remorseful and anxious to stay working in the Defence Forces.

The judge remarked that victim impact statements provided by the two NCOs, who attended the sentencing hearing, showed how the events had a significant impact on their personal, family and professional relationships and caused them to reassess the value of their career in the Defence Forces.

Even three years after the incident, Col Campion said it was clear it was still impacting on them.

He also remarked that not all of the impact “can be laid at the door of the offender”.

The court heard that a report by the Defence Force’s Personnel Support Service said the officer had a limited insight into his offences and their impact.

Fighting continues in Sudan despite ‘ceasefire’
Read More

A psychological assessment carried out last month reported that he had an enhanced level of insight and was at a low risk of violent behaviour and a below-average risk of committing a sexual offence in future.

The report claimed the officer – a married man with a young family – had a history of low mood even before the incident and had subsequently struggled with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

The judge also remarked about the collateral consequences of the offences including the adverse publicity which was attached to some court cases that received greater prominence by the media than the nature of the offence might normally warrant.

The Defence Forces’ press office declined to comment on the outcome of the case.

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by