A man (20) with severe learning difficulties was sentenced to 7 and half years with 2 years suspended by Justice Barry White earlier this afternoon.
He pleaded guilty during an earlier hearing to sexually assaulting Michelle Hennessy, aged 26, which was later upgraded to ‘aggravated sexual assault’ under section 3 of the Criminal Law (RAPE) (AMENDMENT) ACT, 1990.
The attack occurred on the 29th of January 2011. Sean Thackaberry, with an address in Kildare, was escorting the victim home from a night out. Mr Justice Barry White said that the length of the sentence had been dictated by the fact that Thackaberry was ‘in a position of trust to escort her home’.
The court heard that the defendant had attacked the woman 250 metres from her home by pushing her over a wall before sexually assaulting her.
Gardaí on the scene were alerted when they heard the woman screaming. ‘She was hysterical,’ said Sargent Anne Thompson. Evidence was given describing the woman’s injuries which she suffered while ‘physically resisting the attack’. Her injuries included extensive bruising to her body. The attack lasted 20 minutes.
Thackaberry was apprehended on the scene and was later held by Gardaí after the victim’s DNA, as well as his own, was found on the inside of his boxer shorts. Thackaberry gave the sample voluntarily. He was accompanied by his mother during questioning due to his severe learning disabilities.
Justice Barry White said that the 2 years suspended on his sentence were given as a result of his compliance with Gardaí.
During the victim impact statement Sharron Hennessy, sister to the victim, described her as an ‘outgoing, bubbly person’. She said Michelle was ‘afraid to walk out of the house’ following the incident and stopped her from engaging in her passion for skydiving.
Quoting her sister, Sharron Hennessy said: ‘I feel safer in the air than on the ground’
Thackaberry was said to have severe learning difficulties with a literacy level equivalent to that of a ‘six year old’. He had been abusing alcohol and cannabis and had ‘attempted suicide several times after the death of his grandparents’.
He had become known to Gardaí after he began ‘hanging around the area at night’.
Thackabbery remained silent for the duration of the sentencing, only responding ‘ye’ when asked if he understood his sentence.
Michelle Hennessy was unable to give evidence as she has since deceased. Her death was not noted as having a connection to the attack.