Belfast Telegraph

Groping granny jailed for sexual assault and threatening to blow up filling station

By Staff Reporter

A 47-year-old grandmother has been jailed for nine months for sexually abusing a young man after she forced herself on him, grabbed him on the bottom and told him she loved him.

Caroline Irwin, of Carrowshee Park, Lisnaskea, also threatened to blow up a filling station while holding a petrol pump in one hand and a cigarette lighter in the other.

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

She had denied sexually assaulting the man but failed to turn up for her trial and was convicted in her absence.

The man had described how, on November 2 last year, he received a text message from a woman telling him to call at 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.

"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 kiss 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 then 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.

In separate charges, Irwin admitted being disorderly at Swift's SuperValu at Main Street, Lisnaskea, and threatened 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, verbally abusing staff and headbutting 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 they received another report that she was again at the filling trying to set fire to a petrol pump.

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.

Defence barrister Steffan Rafferty said Irwin 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."

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

He told the court the incident at the filling station was "born out of frustration and desperation on her part" as she sought to obtain CCTV from the filling station of an alleged assault in which she was the victim.

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

Mr Rafferty described Irwin as a woman who "hasn't been without her troubles".

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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