Woman loses action over garda sex assault claim

Tuesday 01 April 2014 13.39
A woman who claimed she was locked in a Garda car and sexually assaulted has lost her action for damages
A woman who claimed she was locked in a Garda car and sexually assaulted has lost her action for damages

A 33-year-old woman who claimed she was locked in a Garda patrol car and sexually assaulted has lost her action for damages at the High Court.

The judge said Antoinette Canty's case against retired Garda Thomas Noonan was "wholly devoid of any foundation in fact".

Mr Justice O'Neill said the woman was "exceedingly and incoherently drunk" on the night and had no capacity to remember the events.

Her evidence was wholly unreliable and was a "wholesale reconstruction or re-imagined version contributed to by those close to her".

He said it was significant that she had told her GP she had no memory of the event yet she "regained her memory" later when she made a complaint.

Ms Canty of the Causeway, Tralee, Co Kerry had sued the 66-year-old former garda and the State for the alleged assault and false imprisonment in a garda patrol car in Listowel in March 2001.

Mr Justice O'Neill said the suggestion made by her lawyers that the garda had effectively stalked her and arranged for his colleague to go on a break so he could carry out "a nefarious deed" was "ludicrously far-fetched".

He said the garda's dealing with the plaintiff was in the course of his duty and he had carried out that duty properly. 

His evidence had been corroborated by numerous other witnesses in the case, the judge said.

Ms Canty took a case for damages for psychological trauma, distress and upset after she claimed that Mr Noonan had given her a lift home in a patrol car and had driven past her home before stopping and putting his hand on her upper thigh and trying to "get on” her.

She claimed she was unable to get out of the car which had been locked.

In his judgment, Mr Justice O Neill said Ms Canty had consumed about 13 drinks on the night in question and was exceedingly drunk.

She had come to the attention of gardaí a number of times that night as she had locked herself into a van and was demanding a lift home.

The judge said she had been aggressive and abusive.

She was taken from a fast food outlet by Garda Noonan who took her to the garda station so she could telephone for a lift home.

When he left the patrol car to enter an access code to the station she had "gone berserk" in the car and said she wasn’t going to any "f**king cop station".

She then got out of the car and ran off. As she was not under arrest he did not pursue her.

The judge said it is probable that she then went back into Listowel and got into another car as she had done this earlier in the night and experienced a frightening event.

She had described getting in to a dark unmarked car whereas Mr Noonan's car was clearly a patrol car with lights.

He said it would have been impossible for Mr Noonan to have taken her on the drive she alleged in the time his colleague was on a break.

His wife and daughter had also corroborated his evidence that he had gone home briefly during that time.

The judge awarded costs against Ms Canty. He also said the case had been adjourned many times to allow Mr Noonan time to get legal aid and he was "astonished" that Mr Noonan, as a person who qualified financially had not been granted legal aid.

He said anyone with any legal experience reading the case would have known he should have been granted legal aid and "I do not know how they could possibly have refused him".