Credit: Pablo Nadim /

Roma man who sexually assaulted toddler told Gardaí it was “playful” in his culture

A 32-year-old Romanian man who fondled the genitalia of a three year old boy in an assault that lasted four minutes was jailed for 18 months at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

At the time of his arrest Gheorghe Rafaila, who has previous conviction from another jurisdiction for theft, assault and robbery, told Gardai “In the Roma community, this is something playful; maybe here it is not.”

CCTV footage which captured the assault showed the toddler approach Rafaila who was sitting on a courtyard bench at the time. The child’s mother was reported to have seen what was happening from the room she was in. 

“The woman said she could see the man joking and laughing with his wife and that she went out to the courtyard and called her son back”

“When the woman asked her son what had happened, the boy demonstrated that the man had pulled out his penis and played with his testicles”

During the sentencing hearing Rafaila’s barrister, Maurice Coffey SC, told the court that while his client’s actions were “reprehensible” in Irish society that the man had denied there was any sexual motivation behind what he had done. 

“While it is outside our ken and belief and understanding of what is normal, there seems to be some credence to Rafaila’s account that there was no sexual motive, given the close proximity of his wife,” the counsel told presiding Judge Martin Nolan.

Nolan said that he was unaware that there was any preexisting practice among sections of Romanian nationals to ​​“act in a certain way towards children’s genitalia”.

Rafaila, who was extradited from the UK to face the charges, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and his deportation was ordered on completion of his sentence. 

He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting the toddler on the 22nd of July  2019 while both were residing at a hotel in Dublin.

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