Suspended sentence for sexual assault of au pair too lenient, Court of Appeal rules

Brian Haig (40) from Roscrea cut off woman’s underwear while she slept on couch after meeting him and partner on night out

A fully suspended sentence handed down to a man who cut off an au pair’s underwear and sexually assaulted her while she slept was too lenient, the Court of Appeal found as it sent the 40-year-old to jail for 2½ years.

Brian Haig, of Roscrea, Co Tipperary, pleaded guilty to a single count of sexual assault at an address in the county on March 10th, 2019. Judge Cormac Quinn imposed an 18-month suspended sentence at Tipperary Circuit Court on January 12th last.

However, the three-judge Court of Appeal on Tuesday quashed the original sentence after the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) argued that the headline sentence of 2½ years set by the judge was too low.

Dermot Collins SC, for the DPP, told the court that the “starkest aggravating factor” in the case was the fact that the woman’s clothing had been cut and removed while she was asleep before she woke to find Haig on top of her.


After hearing submissions in the case, the judges rose for a short period, before returning and quashing the original sentence. The court resentenced Haig to 3½ years with the final 12 months suspended.

The facts of the case were outlined in submission documents provided to the court. The DPP submission noted that the victim was an au-pair in her 20s visiting Ireland to mind children for local families.

The injured party had been out socialising in local pubs and met Haig and his partner during the course of the previous night. The three visited several pubs where they all consumed alcohol before returning to the house Haig shared with his partner, where further alcohol was consumed.

The woman was invited to stay in the house for the night and was provided with a blanket and pillow to facilitate her sleeping on the couch.

Det Garda Oliver Hennelly told Haig’s sentencing hearing that the woman fell asleep and woke at 6am to find Haig, fully naked, lying on on top of her. Her clothing had been removed. She screamed at him to stop and went to dress before fleeing the house.

While attempting to get dressed, she discovered that her underwear and tights had been cut off her by Haig. Forensic analysis confirmed that the victim’s clothing had been cut with a sharp blade, possibly a knife or a scissors.

Haig was arrested and during the course of interviews he initially indicated his belief was that he had performed consensual oral sex on the injured party. This was completely at odds with the evidence of the injured party, who said that she was asleep at all times until she woke naked to find Haig on top of her.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault. Judge Quinn nominated a headline sentence of 2½ years which he reduced to 18 months and fully suspended for a period of two years.

The DPP appealed the sentence, arguing that it was unduly lenient in all the circumstances. Mr Collins, for the State, submitted that the offending in this case came within the middle range and not the lowest range for a sexual assault.

He said the sentencing judge had failed to have regard for the aggravating factors in the case, including the fact that the offence was perpetrated while the victim was asleep, the woman was a guest of Haig and his partner, and that a sharp object was used to cut off her clothing and underwear.

Kenneth Kearns SC, for the appellant, said Haig’s plea of guilty was of significance in the case. He said the respondent had penned a letter of apology to the injured party which had been read into the record.

In delivering the judgement, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, sitting with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Mr Justice George Birmingham, said the court’s view was that the sentence imposed was unduly lenient.

She said the court was satisfied that the offending fell within the mid-range in terms of gravity, with the most significant factor the cutting of the undergarments while the woman was asleep.

She said it was the court’s view that this showed “an element of premeditation”. She said the fact that the injured party was asleep at the time “elevates the gravity of the offence”.