By Sonya McLean
A man who sexually assaulted a sleeping woman after she had told him she didn’t want to continue with earlier consensual sexual activity between them has been jailed for nine months.
Thomas Headon (40) had met the English woman earlier that night while they had been out socialising separately in Dublin city in April 2013. She and her friend invited Headon and another man back to their hotel room.
Detective Sergeant Brian Hunt told Fionnuala O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting, that Headon and the woman had been kissing and cuddling in the bathroom of the hotel room before they had sex in the bath.
The woman later told gardaí that she then “hit a brick wall” and the interaction between them got a bit awkward so she told Headon she was tired and didn’t want to do it anymore. He was pressing himself against her and was very insistent but she turned to him and said no.
She told gardaí she was very stern and repeated “no” before she got dressed and lay flat out on the bed.
She said she “went out like a light” but she then woke up to a weight on her back and could feel someone on top of her. She had been dressed in tracksuit bottoms going to bed but she was now naked.
She could feel Headon’s penis on her bare skin and it was touching off the side of her vagina. She jumped up and punched him in the face. He replied that he thought they were having fun but she continued to shout at him before she pushed him off the bed and threw a chair at him.
Det Sgt Hunt said Headon wouldn’t leave the room and continued to ask what he had done wrong. Her friend said she was calling the gardaí and Headon left, leaving his clothing behind in the room.
He was brought in for questioning the following day and accepted that the woman had been asleep, that he had pulled off her bottoms and touched her without her consent.
Det Sgt Hunt said Headon went to Brazil, where his girlfriend at the time was living, before he was charged with the offence.
In 2022 when he went to renew his passport, he learned that he was on a watch list and he came back to Ireland. He was ultimately charged with the offence in August 2022.
Headon of Winter Garden Apartments, Pearse Street, Dublin 2, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to sexual assault of the woman in the hotel on April 28, 2013.
Judge Orla Crowe said the woman had given “a vivid testimony” of the “enduring” and “profound” impact the assault has had on her.
She said Headon had come into the woman’s bed uninvited and naked. She noted that he had claimed to gardaí he had intended to wake the woman to see if she wanted to continue with sex.
The judge accepted that various testimonials and letters handed in on the man’s behalf said this behaviour was “an uncharacteristic lapse on his part”.
Judge Crowe said the aggravating features of the case was the fact that the woman had said no. “She had stopped consensual sexual activity. She had gone to bed and she had not invited him into her bed.
“She had fallen asleep. He knew she was not consenting. She had made it very clear that she didn’t want any further contact. There simply was no consent,” the judge continued.
She accepted that Headon only had one previous conviction for a road traffic offence and had not come to garda attention since. She also accepted that his remorse was genuine.
Judge Crowe imposed an 18-month jail term. She suspended the final nine months on strict conditions including that he engage with the Probation Service for 12 months upon his release from prison. She took into consideration that Headon’s name would now be on the sex offender’s register.
At a previous hearing last month, the woman read her victim impact statement to the court. Today/yesterday (Tues) the woman watched proceedings over a video-link and did not travel for the court case.
In her statement last month she said it had been a “long and arduous ten years” not knowing if the case would come to a final conclusion. “There’s a not a day that has passed since the aftermath of that night where it has not played a part in my life”.
She said it had been a weekend of birthday celebrations in Dublin but that was ruined.
She described the “fear, disgust and shock of knowing that my trust and understanding was ignored” and said she carries a burden.
The woman said she is an only daughter and she carried a weight with her because she couldn’t speak to her mother about what had happened. She said she kept her mother at arm’s length to protect their relationship.
She said she has not been able to maintain relationships due to trust issues and she feels “jaded” by what happened to her. She also described feeling “imprisoned”.
“There is a huge black hole in my life since that night. I feel I have no control,” the woman continued before she said she has tried to “replace the void with things”.
“I spend to make my feel as though I am worthy of that fuzzy tingle. I am spending money I don’t have,” the woman said before she explained that she has lived her last ten years in debt and recently took out a second mortgage to consolidate what she owes to her creditors.
George Burns BL, defending, handed in a letter of remorse from his client, in which he asked for forgiveness from the complainant. He said his client knew his actions were wrong and he did not want to put the woman through the distress of court.
Mr Burns said the man’s actions were “out of character” and he was ashamed and embarrassed. He also handed in a letter from the man’s father, who he helps out on the family farm.
The court heard the man has worked in a number of jobs, including as a busker and a letting agent assistant. He is a man with an “unblemished record” with one previous conviction for a road traffic matter.
He has lost a lot of friends as a result of this incident and a lot of people have distanced themselves from him, the court heard. Mr Burns urged Judge Crowe to consider not imposing a custodial sentence.