Karate champion jailed for ‘degrading’ sexual assault outside Cork club
A European karate champion has been jailed for six years for what a judge described as “degrading” sexual assaults on a student outside a nightclub on a busy street.
Justice Tara Burns said that the attacks by 28-year-old Bagrat Kudzievi were “every young woman’s nightmare”.
Kudzievi of Albert Road, Cork city, was convicted after a trial at the Central Criminal Court last October of two counts of sexual assault of Rachel McElroy at locations in Cork city centre on the night of 19 October 2019. He had denied the charges.
Ms McElroy has indicated to the court that she wished to be identified in reports of the case.
Justice Burns said that Ms McElroy had just turned 18 when she and her friends were out “for an innocent night out”. She said that the woman consumed what was “in truth a relatively small amount of alcohol” but “for whatever reason it had a very significant effect” on Ms McElroy.
She said CCTV footage showed her falling in the Cork city centre nightclub and being in a very emotional state. The woman and her friends went into the smoking area and the woman sat down beside Kudzievi.
Within 10 minutes, she was leaving with Kudzievi and was on the street outside engaged in “the most intimate of acts,” Justice Burns said. She said that this was interrupted by women who were passing by.
These women began shouting at Kudzievi and were filming the two and believed they “were having sex”. Kudzievi then lifted Ms McElroy up and carried her across a bridge to a more secluded location, the court heard.
Security staff from the nightclub, who were concerned about the woman’s level of intoxication, followed and found Kudzievi lying on the woman whose trousers and underwear were pulled down.
The bouncers pulled Kudzievi away and he was arrested. He was initially certified unfit for interview due to his intoxication, though Justice Burns noted “he was quite capable of carrying her without a stumble or fall”.
He later told gardaí that any sexual activity was consensual. The woman had no recall of the events and the day after had only a vague memory of being in a garda station having to give oral swabs.
In her victim impact report, Ms McElroy said that when her mother then told her what had happened to her, the news left her crying for hours. She said the attacks left her feeling empty, disgusted and lacking in confidence.
Ms McElroy added she found it very healing to speak out and help other people, saying she had got fantastic help and support as a result.
“It impacts so much on your life and I feel like talking about it, even to strangers, helps me a lot and has lifted a lot of weight off my shoulders,” she said.
“I had no idea where I was. I didn’t even know who I was,” she told the court.
“I hope to become stronger every day,” she said.
She thanked her friends and family for their support and thanked the gardaí and lawyers who had helped her get justice.
She said she had turned to alcohol for a period in the aftermath of the incident, but with help from her family, friends, and Detective Garda Donal Daly, she had managed to get her life back on a more even keel.
She said the jury’s decision brought her relief that she was believed, but she also said she was hurt that some girls she did not know had decided to record what Kudzievi was doing to her outside the nightclub, instead of seeking help.
She said she only found out about this afterwards, as the night was a blur to her. She described this as disrespectful and said she was disgusted.
Ms McElroy dropped out of college after the incident, but has since returned to her studies and is “slowly putting my life together”.
Ms Justice Burns said that Kudzievi subjected the woman to degrading behaviour in a public place. She said that for the rest of her life, the woman must live with the fact that she was filmed in a sexual act in public by strangers.
She said the only mitigating factor for the defendant was his lack of convictions for this level of offending.
She said the aggravating factors are the serious nature of the offence, his taking advantage of the woman’s intoxicated state and the degrading nature of the assaults.
She suspended the final year of a seven-year prison term on condition that he leave the State and return to Georgia after his release from prison. The sentence is backdated to the night of the attack in 2019 as he has been in custody since then.
Detective Garda Donal Daly told the court that the Georgian national came to Ireland in 2018 and lived under a false Polish identity, which he used to get a social security number. These false documents were found by gardaí investigating the sexual assaults and he was convicted of fraud offences last June.
He has no other convictions here or in any other jurisdictions and has not otherwise come to garda attention since.
Tom Creed SC, defending, said both parties were drinking on the night and that the jury were asked to decide on the issue of the woman’s competence to consent. He said if his client had not been drinking, he may have acted with more inhibition.
He said Kudzievi was very proficient in karate and was formerly the national champion in Georgia, as well as a silver medalist at European championships.