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Suspended jail sentence for shamed Belfast socialite Peter Gilroy over sexual assault

By Mickey Donnelly

Published 03/11/2016

Well-known socialite Peter Gilroy leaves Belfast Crown Court after receiving a nine-month sentence suspended for a year for sexual assault. Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk
Well-known socialite Peter Gilroy leaves Belfast Crown Court after receiving a nine-month sentence suspended for a year for sexual assault. Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk

Shamed Belfast socialite Peter Gilroy was freed on a suspended jail term today for sexually assaulting a man following a drunken night out.

The 49-year-old from Cherryville Street in Belfast pleaded guilty in September to having "intentionally touched" the man in "circumstances being that the touching was sexual", on October 21 last year.

Judge Geoffrey Miller QC told Gilroy that his guilty plea was of considerable relief to his victim, saving him have to relive the violation, which would attract more credit than normal.

The Belfast Crown Court judge said it was clear that a considerable amount of alcohol had been consumed beforehand, but that Gilroy had not plied the man with drink to ensure he got drunk, nor had he "engineered the situation".

Judge Miller said while the alcohol may have severely clouded a remorseful Gilroy's judgement, who acknowledged he had misconstrued the situation. Gilroy, he added, had violated the victim in his own home and that the socialite's "advances were neither sought nor welcome".

However, in suspending his nine-month jail term for a year, Judge Miller said an immediate custodial sentence would serve no purpose other than retribution and that Gilroy had already been punished by the imposition of a prison term.

Earlier prosecution counsel Gareth Purvis said that Gilroy had spent that evening drinking with two others and at the end of the night went on to one of the men's homes for further drinks.  Both men fell asleep in the early hours, the man in his bed, and Gilroy on the sofa.

Mr Purvis said that at around 6am the man awoke to find he had been stripped from the waste down, and Gilroy sexually abusing him.  However, while Gilroy immediately stopped when challenged, the man had reported that since the incident he had lost his confidence, self-esteem and a lack of trust in others.

Defence barrister Mark Farrell said that the reputation of a now shamed Gilroy was "all but shattered" and that his "life now lies in ruins".  At the time Gilroy, he said, was in a drunken stupor, and with his thought processes unclear, mistakenly believed the man was responding to what he was doing.

Mr Farrell said there was no coercion behind the touching, which was "momentary, lasting no more than 10 to 15 seconds", and  that he stopped immediately on being challeneged.

What Gilroy had done, including his drinking beforehand was totally out of character, said Mr Farrell who added that Gilroy's offending had "come as a complete shock and body blow to him, and his life will never be the same again".

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