Former schoolteacher fails to halt trial for alleged indecent assaults 40 years ago

High Court was not persuaded the delay and other circumstances created a risk of an unfair trial

A former schoolteacher has failed to halt his criminal prosecution on dozens of counts of indecent assault alleged to have been perpetrated against several students in the 1970s and 80s.

The High Court’s Mr Justice Anthony Barr was not persuaded the delay and other alleged factors together create a risk that the accused will not receive a fair trial.

The man, who cannot be identified, alleged it was unfair or unjust to proceed with his prosecution due to the cumulative effects of “wholly exceptional circumstances”.

He pointed to the lapse of 40 to 50 years since the alleged events and claimed there was “culpable” prosecutorial delay.


Now aged in his 70s, the man said he is in poor physical health.

He further alleged the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) unfairly and unlawfully chose to halt his earlier prosecution so fresh proceedings could be brought containing allegations from more complainants.

The DPP resisted his application.

Mr Justice Barr said the man’s age alone would not prevent him from adequately defending himself, while the documentation exhibited to the court did not demonstrate he is in poor health.

Case law has established it is no longer appropriate for a judge considering the delay in historic sex abuse cases to look at why the complainant did not make their complaints earlier, the judge said.

The court’s attention should solely be on whether the accused has been prejudiced by the delay to the point he will no longer receive a fair trial.

He agreed with the DPP that the applicant’s legal team can bring an application at the beginning of his trial to the judge overseeing his case if they fear his right to a fair trial has been impaired.

A trial judge is the person best placed to deal with the matter, either by giving appropriate warnings or directions to the jury or, in extreme cases, by withdrawing the case from the jury, Mr Justice Barr said.

The judge was also not satisfied that the DPP aborted the first prosecution in a way that was unfair or warrants prohibition.

He refused the man’s request to prohibit his prosecution.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter