A SERVING member of An Garda Síochána who denied sexually assaulting a woman after getting into her bed in a hotel room changed his plea to guilty at the Circuit Criminal Court in Castlebar this morning (Tuesday).
The accused man's change of plea came just before a jury was about to hear closing submissions from prosecution and defence counsel.
Just before 11.30 a.m. Judge Rory MacCabe was told by Mr. Ken Fogarty, defence counsel, that there had been a development and the accused could be re-arraigned.
When the single count of sexual assault contrary to Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1990 was put again to the accused, who cannot be named, he replied 'Guilty'.
Judge MacCabe, who said the accused had 'taken responsibility for his crime', then discharged the jury panel - eight men and four woman – and thanked them for their service in what, he said, 'had not been an easy trial'.
Last week evidence was heard that the accused is known to the complainant and travelled with her, as part of an eight-strong group, to a charity event in a west of Ireland town in July 2015.The group then stayed overnight in an apartment which forms part of the hotel complex.
The victim told the court the group had enjoyed drinks and played card games as the evening wore on.
She said that she had put on her pyjamas and retired to the double bed she was later to share with her husband.
She gave evidence that she was awakened from sleep by a man who was touching her.
The victim then explained that as a bedside locker light was switched on by her husband her attacker (whom she named in court) got out of bed with his trousers down.
She gave evidence that she was highly distressed afterwards and was comforted and cuddled by her husband.
The court heard that on the following day the vicitm and her husband got a Facebook message from the accused in which he apologised to both of them for what had happened.
In the message, the accused claimed not to remember much about what had happened.
He added: “Unfortunately, loads of beer and Captain Morgan's do not fit well with me.”
The message continued: “I can only guess that in my drunken stupor I went to the wrong bed.”
The apology was rejected by the couple. The victim's husband wrote an angry response informing the accused he had attempted non-consensual sex with his wife.
The husband also reminded the accused he was a married man with a family whose duty it is to uphold the law.
Following the change of plea and the discharge of the jury, Mr. Fogarty told Judge MacCabe the change of plea had 'significant implications' for his client.
The accused, who is not from the west of Ireland region, was remanded to June 13 for sentencing.
Judge MacCabe, who ordered a probation and welfare report, was told by Mr. Fogarty there will be testimonials at the sentencing hearing.
A victim impact statement will also be available.
The case was taken on foot of a GSOC investigation carried out after gardaí referred the matter to GSOC.