Travelling salesman jailed for raping employee

By Sarah-Jane Murphy and Jessica Magee

A travelling salesman from Co Wexford who was serving a suspended sentence for sexual assault when he raped a woman has been jailed for five years.

The 53-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, denied the offence but was convicted following a trial at the Central Criminal Court last July. A jury found him guilty by majority verdict of raping a 24-year-old mother-of-one at a place in Co. Cork on August 2, 2015.

In April 2014, just over a year earlier, the man received a two-year suspended sentence at Tralee Circuit Criminal Court for sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in August 2011.

Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Paul McDermott condemned the man's “opportunistic rape” of his employee in what he said was a serious breach of trust.

The judge noted the devastating effects of the rape on the young woman's personal relationships and mental and physical well-being, as outlined in her victim impact report.

“She's doing her best to live as normal a life as possible, but she lives with the consequences of this in her daily life,” said the judge.

Mr Justice McDermott set a headline sentence of six years but reduced it to five years, noting that imprisonment of the accused would cause hardship to people he supported, including his ageing mother.

He said an aggravating factor was that because the man maintains his innocence and has expressed no remorse, there is no context for rehabilitation to occur.

On completion of his sentence, the man was ordered to undergo two years of Probation Services supervision during which he must access counselling for alcohol and sexual offending and not contact the victim directly or indirectly, through social media or any other way.

The sentence was backdated to July 19 when the man was taken into custody.

In a victim impact statement, the woman said her life would never be the same again. She said although she knows it wasn't her fault, she asked herself if she could have done anything differently.

She said:

I am in a wonderful relationship now, but if my partner rolls over in bed I am startled.

She described how she frequently looks over her shoulder and cries uncontrollably but said she is determined to keep moving forward and not allow the man ruin her life.

'Sneaky'

During the sentence hearing earlier this week, defence counsel Barry White SC claimed the crime was “sneaky”, as opposed to violent, when appealing for leniency.

“Rape is classed as a crime of violence but in this case it was not; it was sneaky, if I might use that expression, in the manner it was perpetrated,” counsel told Mr Justice Paul McDermott.

Sergeant Eamon Feehan told Alice Fawsitt SC, prosecuting, that the defendant was a businessman who travelled around the country going to fairs and festivals selling kitchen goods.

Sgt Feehan said the complainant was introduced to the man when her best friend started working in a shop that he owned.

He told Ms Fawsitt that when the defendant offered the girls work at festivals, they agreed to do so together as neither wanted to travel alone with him. The women told gardaí that “when he drank he talked dirty” but they had no issue with him otherwise.

Sgt Feehan said on the weekend in question, the man and the woman had planned to attend a fair in Cork.

The defendant told the woman that they would both have to sleep in the camper van as there was nowhere to pitch a tent, the court heard.

I've never felt so weak in my life.

Sgt Feehan said the parties arrived there at 1am and the complainant went to bed, fully dressed, while the defendant stayed up drinking cans. After she had fallen asleep he got on top of her and raped her, Sgt Feehan told Ms Fawsitt.

The following day, the defendant told the woman not to say anything to anyone because his relationship was on the line. He then drove the woman home, Sgt Feehan said.

The woman texted her friend and told her what had happened, saying “I didn't want any of it. I've never felt so weak in my life. Please don't tell anyone.” She later reported the rape to gardaí.

The court heard the man has 13 previous convictions, including one for sexual assault in 2011, for which he received a two-year fully suspended sentence. Sgt Feehan said the man made no admissions during interview.

Mr White handed in character references, including one from the accused's partner of over three decades.

He told the judge that his client was a man of good behaviour and good character other than when he had drink taken. The court heard the defendant is the sole carer for his mother who has dementia.

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