Notorious criminal and child rapist Stephen ‘Rossi’ Walsh has had his conviction for indecent assault overturned after successfully arguing that he could not get a fair trial due to adverse pre-trial media coverage.
The 75-year-old, formerly of Belgrave Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6, and Coologmartin, Donadea, Co Kildare, was convicted on October 21st, 2010, by a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of two counts of indecent assault before Judge Pat McCartan and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
The prosecution’s case was that Walsh on two occasions between May 1st, 1988, and September 30th, 1988, indecently assaulted a seven-year-old girl.
He had a 10-year sentence imposed on him by Mr Justice Paul Carney in February 2010 for raping a nine-year-old girl in the early 1990s. In November 2010, Judge McCartan made the three-year sentence consecutive to this, while in December 2011 Walsh received another consecutive 12-year sentence for sexual assault and defilement of a child on dates in 2008 and 2009.
The appeal court heard that Walsh featured in articles in the Sunday World and News of the World newspapers on the day before his trial began on October 18th, 2010 and an article in the Sunday World was headlined: ‘Rossi raped girl (9) on beach, now she’s got justice’. Walsh himself complained of the matter to the trial judge but did not request an adjournment in the case.
In June of last year at the Court of Appeal it was submitted by Walsh’s legal team that the trial judge erred in not adjourning the trial to such a time to allow for a “fade factor” to elapse in terms of any juror’s memory of the articles.
The appeal heard that another article, in the News of the World, nabout a different male accused of being a child-trafficker also referred to Walsh as a “convicted perv” and a “leading general in Martin The General Cahill’s mob” on the day before his trial.
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy had said that the issue before the Court of Appeal was whether or not the adverse coverage of Walsh on the day before his trial could mean his right to a fair trial was impaired.
At the Court of Appeal on Thursday, Walsh had his conviction quashed. Mr Justice John Edwards said Walsh was “justified” in his complaint regarding the adverse publicity issue.
Mr Justice Edwards noted the Sunday World article referred to “perverted Stephen Walsh”, in addition to there being “more than a passing reference” to his 10 years’ imprisonment for a “sick sex attack” and being a “leading member” of Martin ‘The General’ Cahill’s gang.
Mr Justice Edwards said the coverage was “highly egregious” to Walsh and that while the trial judge did give a warning to the jury about doing online searches for the appellant, he did not warn them of newspaper coverage to meet any concerns about the then-recent articles. He said the judge’s charge to the jury was “insufficient” regarding media coverage and that a renewed warning in the context of the media coverage was warranted in the case.