A man who broke into a woman’s home after a ‘Get to know your neighbour’ party and sexually assaulted her as she slept in her bed has walked free from court.
Anthony Ferguson broke into the home of the woman in July, 2018 after the community gathering involving storytelling, fun activities and food in a Co Donegal village.
The victim was serving drinks when a man who was not local to the area, later identified as Ferguson, became rowdy and he was asked to leave as the bar was closing.
The victim and her husband went back to their home nearby with some neighbours where they had some drinks with friends and Ferguson gained entry to the house, was again very rowdy and was asked to leave.
The couple went to sleep around 2am but the terrified victim revealed she was awoken by a man in the bed beside her.
The man, Ferguson, now aged 27 years, said to her “I have you now.”
The terrified woman jumped up and alerted her husband screaming at him to get the man out of the house.
Ferguson was later arrested and pleaded guilty to charges of sexual assault, burglary and criminal damage at Letterkenny Circuit Court in January of this year.
His victim said she could have written page after page about how violated she had felt after the incident and couldn’t work for weeks after the attack and was going around her house locking doors all the time.
Her husband, who works abroad, could not travel as she was in so much fear and they lost a major part of their earnings.
She said she wanted Ferguson, from Fermanagh but with a previous address at Brittania Point, Colliers Wood in London, to stand up and admit what he had done and that his behaviour was atrocious and that he should be disgusted and ashamed of himself.
Ferguson escaped a prison sentence last January after agreeing to pay his victim €20,000 which he said he could get from his father who owned a chain of supermarkets in London whom he worked for.
He appeared in court again in July, said he still didn’t have the compensation and Judge John Aylmer said he wanted to see “far more accelerated progress.”
However, the court was told yesterday that as a result of the publicity from the case the offer of the loan had been withdrawn and Ferguson had lost his job leaving him with no way of funding another proposal to pay his victim €500 a month.
His barrister Ciaran O’Rourke told Judge John Aylmer that his client had “tried his best” but had no income and no way of paying the victim the €20,000 compensation.
Before passing sentence Judge Aylmer asked where the accused was currently living and if he could get an address in the Republic of Ireland.
Ferguson replied that he could get a place to stay locally in Donegal and would find a more permanent address.
Before mitigation the Judge said he placed the burglary in the mid range of such offences meriting six years in prison, the sexual assault also in the mid range meriting four years in prison and placed the criminal damage at the lower end of the scale meriting 18 months in prison.
He added that on the date of the offence, Ferguson was 24 years old and had no previous convictions.
He said it appears these offences were very much out of character and the only explanation for it was that Ferguson was “literally out of his mind with alcohol” but added this was not an excuse but an explanation for what he called his “bizarre behaviour.”
The Judge said he accepts Ferguson is genuinely remorse and ashamed of his behaviour and that he has tried to rehabilitate from his addictions to alcohol and other substances with limited success.
Because of these factors he was reducing the sentence to one of four years in prison.
However, he added that because of the absence of previous convictions and the particularly unusual features of the case, he was taking what he called the “unique steps” in suspending the entire sentence for a period of four years on Ferguson entering a bond to keep the peace for that time.
He ordered him to comply with all the directions of the Probation Services and said he must live in the Republic of Ireland for that time.