A Crown prosecutor was abused and threatened by supporters of a 21-year-old who had just been jailed for three years for the sexual violation of a drunk woman.
A woman who had watched the sentencing in the public gallery called Crown prosecutor Deirdre Elsmore a nasty name and suggested she should prosecute guilty people.
A man then threatened to take photos of Mrs Elsmore as she left Christchurch’s Court House and “put them all over Instagram”, a social media site.
Police court escort staff stopped at least one of them leaving the building downstairs after the incident, and she was spoken to but it is understood they are not going to be charged with offensive or threatening language.
Mrs Elsmore was to be escorted from the Court House by police or Court Safety officers. Judge Alistair had already imposed sentence and left the Christchurch District Courtroom when the outburst took place.
Matthew James O’Shaughnessy was weeping in the dock as Judge Garland jailed him for three years for sexual violation, and an additional month for failing to do any more than eight hours of a 100-hour community work sentence imposed last year for driving while disqualified.
O’Shaughnessy was maintaining his innocence ahead of his sentencing, including at his interview with a probation officer.
Judge Garland said he “presented with a sense of entitlement”.
“You said it affected your trust in females and you now engaged with more caution. I infer you are suggesting that the fact that you are before the court is her fault and not yours,” said the judge.
He noted that O’Shaughnessy had a considerable history of offending, including driving charges, violence, drugs, and dishonesty, but he had no previous convictions for sexual offending.
Defence counsel Josh Lucas said the offending had arisen from “an egregious error of judgment” on a night when O’Shaughnessy was drunk. The events had seemed to him, on that night, like the start of a consensual sexual encounter.
The jury rejected O’Shaughnessy’s defence at a trial in June and convicted him on a charge of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection.
Judge Garland said there was clear evidence of premeditation and planning by O’Shaughnessy.
The woman, 27, had taken some ecstasy at a concert at Horncastle Arena on July 20, 2016, and also had several alcoholic drinks. She became drunk, and continued drinking at a hotel in the city.
Judge Garland said she was obviously intoxicated when she left there with a male friend and went to Calendar Girls. O’Shaughnessy, who had had little or no contact with the woman, jumped in the taxi with them.
The woman vomited onto the road when they got out of the taxi, and she was unsteady on her feet. She remained outside for about 20 minutes and staff from the nightclub bought her out a glass of water.
The woman’s male friend left her about 3.40am to get a pre-arranged ride to his home, and she took a taxi to her house. Again, O’Shaughnessy went with her.
At her flat, she was again sick, and a male flatmate and O’Shaughnessy helped to put her to bed fully clothed.
Later, when the flatmate was occupied working on his computer, O’Shaughnessy went into the woman’s room and the flatmate found him there performing oral sex on the woman.
The woman had no recollection of the incident, but the police were told the next day. O’Shaughnessy claimed the woman had been conscious, knew who he was, and was consenting to the sexual act.
Judge Garland said O’Shaughnessy’s planning and premeditation involved getting in the taxi despite having little contact with the woman, when he was not invited back to the victim’s house.
He had then hung around and waited till the flatmate was distracted before going into the woman’s bedroom.
His offending had caused serious emotional harm to the victim. It had affected her career, her mental health, and her relationship with friends. It had caused her to move away from Christchurch.
Because of O’Shaughnessy’s continuing denials, there could be no reduction of his sentence for any guilty pleas, contrition or remorse, said the judge.