Woman jailed for nine months after being convicted of sexually abusing a young man

Published: 2 Jun 2014 17:17

A 47-year-old grandmother has been jailed for nine months for sexually abusing a young man and threatening to blow up a filling station.

Caroline Irwin.

Caroline Irwin, of Carrowshee Park, Lisnaskea, allegedly “forced” herself on the young man, grabbing him by the bum and telling him she loved him.

She subsequently went to a filling station in Lisnaskea and, holding a cigarette lighter to a fuel pump, threatened to “blow this place up”.

She denied the sexual assault charge but failed to turn up for her trial and was convicted in her absense.

Irwin, who appeared at Fermanagh Court by video link from Hydebank Prison, was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for seven years.

The victim of the sexual assault had described how, on November 2, last year, he received a text message from a woman telling him to call a her house to collect the £10 she owed him for cutting her lawn. When he got there Irwin was in the house. The woman asked the young man to carry Irwin’s bags to a waiting taxi.

The man described how Irwin told him he had lovely hands and as he walked out the door “she grabbed me by the backside, four of five times”. As he continued on out through the garden gate “she tried to give me a love bite” on the left side of the neck. He described how he moved his head to prevent Irwin from giving him the love bite.

“She tried to snog me but that didn’t work either,” he added.

He said he told her: “Please stop. I don’t like this.”

The man explained how Irwin put her arms around him and tried to snog him, telling him: “I know you very well and I love you.”

However, the man told the court “I didn’t know her at all” and that he pushed her away.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said he was entirely satisfied that the man had given a “credible and reliable” account of what happened.

He convicted Irwin of sexually assaulting the man.

Irwin admitted being disorderly at Swift’s Supervalu at Main Street, Lisnaskea, and threatening to destroy a fuel pump.

Outlining the background to those offences, a prosecutor explained that on Friday, November 29, last year, police received a report that Irwin was causing a disturbance at Swift’s Supervalu, verbally abusing staff and head-butting a glass door. The next day the police received a report that Irwin was back at the filling station and was trying to set fire to a petrol pump with a lighter. The day after that the police received another report that Irwin was again at the filling trying to set fire to a petrol pump using a cigarette lighter.

The court heard that Irwin stood with a petrol pump in one hand and a cigarette lighter in the other shouting: “Get your children away. I’m going to blow this place up.”

There were several members of the public and staff in the area at the time.

A charge of attempted arson had previously been withdrawn.

Defence barrister Steffan Rafferty said Iwin should be given credit for admitting all the offences except for the sexual assault.

“She would still maintain there was nothing devious or malicious about her actions on that day but accepts the finding of the court,” he stated.

“It’s that charge that causes her the most embarrassment, and indeed shame. It’s the one offence that caused her most anxiety,” Mr. Rafferty added.

He said Irwin hadn’t helped herself by deliberately disregarding the criminal justice system and not turning up for her trial.

“She has to bear the consequences of that and take her medicine,” said the barrister.

He told the court the incident at the filling station was “borne out of frustration and desperation on her part” as she sought to obtain CCTV from filling station of an alleged assault when she was the victim.

The District Judge remarked: “This was very, very extreme to say the least.”

Mr. Rafferty said: “She knows how dangerous it could have been for her and those around her had the fuel ignited. But in no circumstances did she intend to take her actions further. I don’t think it was ever perceived that she was going to go through with this.”

The District Judge said: “But it could have happened accidentally.”

Mr. Rafferty said: “She is very much aware of that.”

He described Iwin as a woman who “hasn’t been without her troubles”. There have been issues in her life that have caused her difficulty and she has considerable physical and mental health complaints. Her primary problem is alcohol consumption and the company she has been keeping hasn’t helped.

“It was a fire she wasn’t able to get herself out of,” stated Mr. Rafferty, and “the spiral of alcohol consumption and, ultimately offending” continued.

“The period she has spent in Hydebank has had a sobering effect on her,” the barrister added.

He said that while in prison on remand Irwin became a grandmother of twins and is keen to regain her liberty.

He pointed out that she has already served the equivalent of an eight-month jail sentence.

Mr. Rafferty said Irwin realised “she has been stuck in a rut” but efforts are being made “to turn herself around”.

Jailing her for a total of nine months, the District Judge told Irwin the sexual assault on the young man was aggravated by the fact that the injured party had to come to court and give evidence.

He added that the incident at the filling station “when you quite dangerously took a fuel pump and had a cigarette lighter and threatened to damage” the premises would have been of “great concern to anyone who witnessed it”.

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