Judge says those who give character references in criminal cases should be available for cross-examination

Mr Justice David Keane made his comments after lawyers for man accused of raping his young son sought to present letters to court from his GP and parents

A High Court judge has said that character referees for convicted criminals should have to come to court to be cross-examined.

Mr Justice David Keane made his comments during the sentence hearing of a 38-year-old Tipperary man convicted of the repeated rape and sexual assault of his young son.

Lawyers for the man asked the court to receive a number of character references, including letters from his current partner, his parents and his GP.

Justice Keane said that a recent dictum from the Court of Criminal Appeal suggested that anyone who wishes to provide a character reference to the court should be in court and available for cross-examination.

He said he also thought that the court could give limited weight to a reference from family members.

Kathleen Leader SC, defending, replied that it was accepted in evidence that her client, who went into custody last December, was a good father and that he was very much missed by his family.

The man was convicted after a trial last December of three counts of oral rape of his son and three counts of sexual assault at his home in a place in Co. Tipperary on unknown dates between 2007 and 2014. The victim was aged between one and eight when his father raped and molested him.

The abuse came to light in 2016 when the child told a relative of his own age that his father had made him “touch him” and “had wanted him to touch his private parts and to suck his privates”, the court heard.

This second child told an adult relative and the victim then told this adult that “his father put his yoke in his mouth and got him to suck it”.

During garda interviews conducted by child specialist interviewers, the child said that during the assaults his father had pushed the child’s head down and kept pushing it back.

In a short victim impact report the child, who is now a teenager, said that the abuse had no lasting effect on him and that he wanted to get on with his life. “It hasn’t really affected me at all, if anything it has made me stronger,” he said. “I am trying to continue with the rest of my life. I am glad he will not be able to do what he did to anyone else while he is in prison.”

He said he felt very lucky to be in the care of loving relatives and to be brought up by them and said: “I couldn’t have a better start.”

Ms Leader said that when sentencing her client, the court had to take into consideration the fact that the victim has said he suffered no lasting adverse effects. “He makes that very clear. The court is entitled to take that into account,” she said.

Mr Justice Keane adjourned finalisation of the case to next Friday, July 1st. He remanded the man, who cannot be named to protect the identify of the victim, in continuing custody.