How an Innocent Man Fared at the Hands of the State
Deaglán de Bréadún
Appalling things happen in this country week in, week out. There is uproar and outrage over them but it all blows over in a few days. Usually, another shocking story comes along to supersede the last. There are so many, it is hard to keep up with them.
But sometimes there is a case that has such serious implications that it would be a gross wrong to let it be swept under the carpet. The miscarriage of justice in the case of Michael Feichín Hannon is one of those.
The role of officialdom and the State in this case has to be looked into further. Here we had a young man of 22 whose family were involved in a land dispute with a neighbour. The head of the neighbouring family was convicted of assaulting Hannon’s father.
Shortly afterwards, ten-year-old Una Hardester – motivated, she says, by revenge for her father’s conviction - accused Hannon of sexually assaulting her. The terminology she used seems very grown-up for a child although she denies having been coached. Mr Hannon was duly convicted and given a four-year suspended sentence.
But some years later, Ms Hardester declares that her original testimony was fabricated. Does the State inform Mr Hannon of this? No, he finds out through his sister who accidentally bumps into Ms Hardester at a petrol station.
Mr Hannon then goes to his solicitor who seeks the official documentation that will clear his client’s name. But the file has been mislayed. It takes 18 – agonising for Mr Hannon no doubt – months for the file to be re-assembled.
Ten years after his original conviction, Mr Hannon’s name is cleared. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is against declaring the case a miscarriage of justice but that is the finding of the court.
This is a very disturbing sequence of events. As Michael Clifford pointed out (click here) there are echoes of the Brigid McCoole blood transfusion case. The Dáil reconvenes tomorrow and presumably some of our public representatives will take up the matter.
One would like to know more about the initial investigation but the part that really raises one’s eyebrows is the failure of the State to inform Mr Hannon of the retraction of Ms Hardester’s evidence and the mislaying of the file. Click here to read my previous post on this case and the news report in The Irish Times. For a report on the missing file, click here.