Trial of man for rape of girl (8) when he was aged 15 stopped
Judge rules applicant entitled to order on grounds of loss of right to be tried as a child
In an important judgment dealing with the rights of children charged with serious offences, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley in the High Court ruled the applicant, now aged 21, is entitled to orders restraining his prosecution for rape of a girl then aged 8 on grounds the four-year delay in charging him had deprived him both of his right to be tried as a child and his right to anonymity.
A young man accused of raping an eight-year-old girl during a party when he was aged almost 16 has won a High Court order stopping his trial. The alleged incident occurred in July 2008 but the man was not charged until July 2012, just before his 20th birthday.
In an important judgment dealing with the rights of children charged with serious offences, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley ruled the applicant, now aged 21, is entitled to orders restraining his prosecution on grounds the four-year delay in charging him had deprived him both of his right to be tried as a child and his right to anonymity.
There is “a special duty” on the prosecuting authorities to expedite cases involving children but there was “a serious failure” of the system in this case, she said.
The need for more speedy expedition of the trials of children was based on factors including that children differ from adults concerning not just their physical development but their intellectual, social and emotional understanding, she said.
She rejected arguments by the DPP that the appropriate test to apply in deciding if the trial should proceed was not whether there was any loss of rights under the Children Act, but, rather, whether the right to a fair trial was breached or the delay had caused undue stress and anxiety.
In this case, the delays arose despite the fact the investigation into the young girl’s complaint, made July 2008, was “quite straightforward” and largely complete within a month, the judge noted.
The only explanations given for the delay were that the original garda officer in charge of the investigation had been moved to another county, and a suggestion of a misunderstanding in the National Juvenile Office (NJO) as to whether it had received certain documents from gardaí. Neither explanation was adequate, she said.
While she assumed the NJO had a large caseload, its delay of two years in making a decision on the case was unacceptable. There was an impression the investigating gardaí and the NJO were to some extent leaving things up to each other and the result was they made a decision the file should go to the DPP just days before the accused’s 20th birthday.
The strongest argument in favour of letting the trial proceed was that the applicant was charged with very serious offences against a very young girl, she said. It was undoubtedly correct there was a public interest in a court decision on his guilt or innocence and in the mandatory supervision that follows a conviction for a sex offence.