A married Royal Navy officer has been jailed for two and a half years for sexually assaulting a woman who fell asleep on his bed after he invited her back to his room following a night out while stationed in Oman.
Lieutenant Peter Coughlin was convicted, following a court martial trial at Portsmouth Naval Base, of the assault by penetration which the court heard happened in his accommodation at Musannah air base near Muscat on the morning of March 20 last year.
Judge Advocate Robert Hill said Coughlin acted in an “episode of pure madness” when he was “clutching at straws” in his belief that his victim was sexually attracted to him.
He said the defendant’s “fairly powerful attraction for the complainant” was not reciprocated by his victim.
Sentencing Coughlin for an offence of sexual assault by penetration, Judge Hill said: “In an episode of pure madness you failed to resist the temptation. She trusted you completely.”
Coughlin was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for an indefinite period.
Judge Hill praised Coughlin’s wife for standing by her husband.
He said: “It would be remiss of me if I didn’t pay respect to the position of your wife, also a serving officer. The court commends her strength of character, resilience and fortitude.”
Lieutenant Colonel Will Peters, prosecuting, told the trial that the 34-year-old defendant and his alleged victim had been drinking at a hotel in Muscat before going back to the airbase together.
The pair smoked a shisha pipe outside his cabin before Coughlin, who is currently based at the Air Warfare Centre, Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, invited the woman back to his room.
Lt Col Peters described how Coughlin, training officer for 814 Naval Air Squadron, suggested putting a film on in his room but as he attempted to work his laptop, the woman fell asleep on his single bed.
He said: “The next thing that happened was she woke up on Lt Coughlin’s bed, it was light outside. She awoke and appreciated what was going on, she instantly jumped off the bed, he immediately said sorry and she left the cabin.”
In a video interview shown to the court, the victim described how she was “disgusted” at Coughlin’s actions which “made her skin crawl”.
She said: “I felt physically sick, I couldn’t really understand what had just occurred, I just burst into tears. I went to have a shower, I tried to process it, I should never, never have gone into his cabin.”
She added: “There was no form of consent in any manner, he thought he could just get away with it.”
Lt Col Peters said the defendant claimed that the woman was awake at the time and consented. The defendant also claimed that she had been flirtatious earlier by passing a piece of fruit to him by her mouth.