Court of Appeal: Increased sentence for woman who made false sexual assault allegation

Court of Appeal: Increased sentence for woman who made false sexual assault allegation

The Court of Appeal has increased the sentence for a woman convicted of making a false statement to gardaí about a sexual assault. The woman was initially sentenced to two years’ imprisonment which was fully suspended.

However, the Court of Appeal held that the offending was so serious that it crossed the threshold for a custodial sentence to be applied. As such, the court imposed a sentence of three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment with the final two-and-a-half years suspended.


In July 2016, the respondent had been socialising with the injured party in a pub in Stepaside. They left the pub together and the respondent drove them in her car towards Enniskerry to attend an event in a hotel. On the way, the respondent approached a sharp bend and crashed the car.

The gardaí were contacted by a local man despite the respondent saying there was no need to involve the police. The respondent and the injured party began to walk towards Enniskerry village. The gardaí located the couple but only the injured party stopped to talk with them. The respondent did not stop and could not be located that night.

The following day, the respondent, her mother and a friend met the injured party and made the accusation that the injured party had sexually assaulted the respondent. It was alleged that this assault was the cause of the accident.

The injured party contacted gardaí about the accusation and the threat that the respondent would make a complaint of sexual assault against him. Subsequently, parallel investigations were opened into the road traffic accident and the suggestion of sexual assault.

Both parties were invited to make statements in the course of the investigations. The respondent declined to provide a statement and was prosecuted for dangerous driving. In a statement of admission in August 2016, the respondent accepted that she was the driver of the vehicle but indicated that there were “other factors involved”.

In December 2016 the respondent submitted a document which made a series of allegations, including that the injured party was drunk, had given her a false name, had pestered her, had dragged at her breasts and put his hands between her legs. The respondent alleged that the injured party would not leave her alone while she was driving and at one point held her arm behind his back. There was also a suggestion of extortion.

The respondent made a formal statement in April 2017 which repeated the allegations. However, during the investigation by gardaí, it became apparent that the respondent had provided a false statement which was contrary to section 12(a) of the Criminal Law Act 1976. In August 2018, the respondent was arrested and interviewed in relation to making the false statement. The respondent provided a prepared statement which stood over the original complaint and refuted that any allegation was false.

The sexual assault investigation had previously concluded in January 2018 when the appellant directed that no prosecution would be pursued. The respondent was charged with making the false allegation in 2019. It was only in July 2020 that the respondent pleaded guilty to making the false accusation, which meant that the accusation had been maintained for nearly four years.

The injured party had provided a victim impact statement which set out the severe detrimental effect that the false allegations had on his life. In particular, he had heard whispers about him around town, that he felt “guilty until proven innocent” and that he had trouble finding employment.

Court of Appeal

In July 2021, the respondent was sentenced for the offending. The sentencing judge had previously adjourned the matter to allow the respondent to present information which might have permitted the matter to be dealt with on a non-custodial basis. The respondent produced reports from a consultant psychiatrist and from her GP.

The GP reported that the respondent had suffered immense stress between 2014 and 2018 and that she had turned to alcohol and gambling. The psychiatrist reported that the respondent presented with problematic personality traits which sometimes reached the criteria for a personality disorder.

In sentencing the respondent, the judge held that the guilty plea was of significant utility to the court and reference was made to the respondent’s mental health difficulties. It was noted that the respondent was due to attend an in-treatment rehabilitation programme to deal with her alcohol issues.

The judge identified the appropriate sentence as two years imprisonment but suspended the sentence fully due to the mitigating factors, including the guilty plea, the respondent’s remorse and the likelihood of reoffending. The appellant appealed the decision on the grounds of undue leniency.

President George Birmingham began by emphasising that the Court regarded the offending as being of “very real seriousness”. Although the offence of providing a false statement to gardaí could be committed in a number of ways, it was “inherently serious” when the offence involved a false allegation of sexual abuse.

The court observed that the initial false reports were designed to give an advantage to the respondent at a time when she could have expected to be investigated under the Road Traffic Acts. While a dangerous driving charge was not a trivial matter, “an accusation of sexual assault is of a different dimension of seriousness”, the court said.

The court also noted that the allegation persisted for a significant period of time. The respondent had many opportunities to withdraw her statement and put matters right, but those opportunities were not taken. In fact, the respondent “doubled down” on the allegations.

In light of these aggravating factors, the court held that the offending was so significant that it crossed the custody threshold. The court stated: “It is a case where a custodial sentence of some dimension was inevitable and could not have been avoided.”

In reaching this conclusion, the court accepted the reluctance of the sentencing judge to imprison a person who had not offended previously and who had documented difficulties. The court also acknowledged that there were mitigating factors such as a guilty plea.


The court held that the trial judges sentence involved an error in principle and that it was obliged to re-sentence the respondent. The court nominated a headline sentence of three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment. The final two-and-a-half years of the sentence were suspended.

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