A man who sexually assaulted a woman on a public street by grabbing her underwear has been jailed for six months.
Jonas Mercado (30) of Castlecurragh Vale, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one charge of sexual assault following an incident that occurred on Middle Abbey Street, Dublin on July 15th, 2017.
Garda Colin McCluskey told John Berry BL, prosecuting, that on the night in question, Mercado approached his victim while she was speaking on her mobile phone and put a hand on her leg.
He proceeded to grab a hold of her underwear, and attempted to tear them off.
On hearing shouts on the street, several people came to the victim’s aid, while Mercado was restrained by some passersby. The defendant eventually fled the scene.
In an impact statement, read to the court on behalf of the complainant, Mercado’s victim said she felt “extremely vulnerable and frightened” after the attack, and felt compelled to bring a case to the courts to “protect” other women.
The victim said that she still does not feel “completely at ease” when she goes out.
After the assault had occurred on the night in question, the victim got into a taxi, where she was advised by the driver of the cab to report what had happened to the gardaí.
The driver then brought the victim to Ballymun Garda Station, where she made a statement about the assault.
In the statement made to gardaí at the station, the victim spoke of her initial disbelief at Mercado’s conduct, thinking it was some sort of “joke”.
When gardai initially began investigating the case, officers learned that Mercado had left Ireland to live in Australia.
Mercado was convicted of a breaking and entering offence while in Australia, and gardaí were informed by Australian authorities when Mercado left to return to Ireland last year.
He was arrested after re-entering the State and subsequently interviewed by gardaí.
Judge Melanie Greally had previously adjourned the case after hearing evidence in June to allow a probation report and risk assessment be prepared.
On Monday Judge Greally noted there had been an earlier encounter where Mercado made unwelcome approaches to the injured party and her friends and this offence occurred after the group had left the nightclub.
She said Mercado had pulled at the woman’s underwear aggressively and that the amount of force used was considerable, but there was no contact with her private parts as such.
The judge noted the effect the offence had on the woman and her enjoyment of social activities.
She said the offence had been committed while Mercado was in a state of intoxication and outlined the report refers to excessive alcohol and drug use that coincided with a period of stress in his life.
She noted Mercado had been assessed as at high risk of reoffending, both sexually and non sexually.
Gesture of regret
The judge took into account difficulties he has faced in his life and noted letters handed into court outlining his academic achievements and future prospects.
Judge Greally also took into account that he had amassed compensation totalling €4,500 as a gesture of regret for the harm cause to the injured party.
She said that gesture had been somewhat diluted by comments in the report he made in respect of the injured party and her friends and a denial that this was an act which had a sexual motivation associated with it.
She said the court would endeavour to reach a sentence which has a punitive and deterrent element in relation to this type of sexually aggressive behaviour but also has a suspended element to encourage him to face up his responsibilities and address his risk factors.
She placed the offence in the low range for sexual assault and set a headline sentence of 18 months.
Judge Greally took into account his personal circumstances, remorse and his hardworking and decent family background. She noted he was willing to engage with therapeutic supports.
She imposed a 12-month sentence with the final six months suspended on strict conditions including that he partake in offence related assessment and treatment while under probation supervision.
At the earlier hearing Philip Rahn SC, defending, told the court that the recent illness and subsequent death of Mercado’s father had had an adverse effect on the defendant’s behaviour, often turning to alcohol for “solace”.
Mercado, who was inebriated at the time of the assault, now realises the destructive nature of his relationship with alcohol, Mr Rahn said.
Mr Rahn asked the court to consider Mercado’s early guilty plea, his remorse and dedication to his family ahead of sentencing.