Remanded Athlone rape suspect to be given protection in prison
30-year-old arrived at Longford courthouse flanked by members of the armed support unit
The scene outside Longford Court House yesterday morning as a 30-year-old man is driven away having been charged with rape. Photograph: Cyril Byrne.
A 30-year-old man charged with the rape of two young girls who were attending a children’s birthday party in Athlone at the weekend was remanded in custody when he appeared before Longford District Court yesterday.
The accused, who was wearing a black jacket, faded blue jeans and white runners when he appeared in court also had a wound to the left side of his face.
Judge Seamus Hughes remanded the man in custody until Friday. He said he had noticed some marks on the man’s face and ordered that he be put on suicide watch and “afforded all possible protection”.
“I know it’s a rather unusual thing to state, but we are all living in the real world,” he added.
Hundreds of people in Athlone had protested outside the local Garda station on Monday to express their anger at the alleged assault of the two girls, aged nine and six.
The children had been attending a birthday party at a housing estate on the edge of the town when they went missing.
Some of the children’s parents later found the children and held the alleged attacker, before he was detained by gardaí.
The suspect was questioned over the course of Monday before being charged. Two other men in their 40s who were also arrested following the incident were released without charge.
Judge Hughes said yesterday that while he was aware of the heightened emotions surrounding the case, he had every confidence that the public would assist gardaí in their work.
He also reminded the media of its legal obligation to protect the anonymity of both the defendant and the victims, as set out in the sexual offences legislation.
The solicitor for the man, Gearoid Geraghty, also expressed concern that publicity surrounding the case could affect the integrity of the justice system and his client’s ability to get a fair trial.
The accused man arrived earlier in the day to the court under heavy security, accompanied by members of the Garda’s armed support unit.
Sgt Yvette McCormack told the court the accused was charged with four counts of rape against two victims. He made no reply to the charges.
She said she arrested him at 6.54pm on Monday at Barrack Street Garda station in Athlone, and he was charged with a total of four counts of rape against the children.
Supt Noreen McBrien requested that the suspect be remanded in custody to appear again at Harristown District Court in Co Roscommon this Friday.
Mr Geraghty requested that the defendant undergo a psychiatric evaluation, as he was concerned at his ability to enter a plea. Judge Hughes granted the request.
The defendant had been taken from Athlone Garda station in the early hours of yesterday morning after the majority of protesters had left the scene.
He arrived at Longford courthouse shortly after 9am yesterday, flanked by members of the armed support unit.
A small group of people shouted abuse at the accused as he was driven away in a Garda van through a car park at the back of the courthouse in Longford.