Ronan McCusker at court on Monday

A MAN given a character reference by Tyrone GAA manger Mickey Harte has been jailed for sexually assaulting a women and throwing her half-naked from a van. Ronan McCusker (27) was told yesterday it was a ” serious, wicked misjudgement ” which had brought ” shame and embarrassment to his family “.

McCusker admitted the offences, which took place after meeting the 47-year-old women in a bar following a cemetery Sunday service near Magherafelt in June 2010. Judge Piers Grant said the victim, who was known to McCusker, had little recollection of the facts when she was found by the side of the Ballymulligan Road. ” In the early hours of June 28 two gentlemen came down a lane and were horrified to discover a semi-naked women lying on the driveway,” the judge said. ” That women was left there by you, abandoned by you in a state of undress, very vulnerable and very exposed.” Judge Grant said the events had caused ” enormous indignity ” to the women who had been persuaded to go out by friends before meeting McCusker, of Ballygillen Road in Cookstown.

After both had drunk heavily, McCusker took his father’s van and ” took her back to this lonely place and proceeded to sexually assault her in a significant way”. Referring to the references for McCusker, Judge Grant it was clear that his family was well respected in the area. Mr Harte’s decision to provide a character reference has been criticised by the Rape Crisis Centre which said he should have considered the impact on the victim’s family and the GAA. However, the judge continued : ” There was a degree of calculation in what you did in that you went home and got the van. You knew she did not consent and by taking her to a lonely place showed that you knew what you were doing. ” You left her naked and totally exposed.” McCusker also pleaded guilty to taking his father’s van without his authority, driving while disqualified and driving without insurance. The judge noted that he had cooperated with police and shown a ” degree of remorse ” He sentenced him at Derry Crown Court yesterday to two and a half years ‘ imprisonment, of which he is expected to serve 15 months. McCusker was also ordered to sign the sex offenders register for 10 years and banned from unsupervised access to children and vulnerable adults.



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