Judge says rape complainants should have access to legal advice

High Court justice calls for reform during sentencing for 2015 attack in west Dublin

A High Court judge has said he ‘completely’ agrees that complainants in rape cases should have access to legal advice during trials. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

A High Court judge has said he ‘completely’ agrees that complainants in rape cases should have access to legal advice during trials. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

A judge has said he “completely” agrees that complainants in rape cases should have access to legal advice during trials.

Mr Justice Paul Butler made his comments during his sentencing of a 24-year-old Dublin man who raped a teenage acquaintance in 2015 after forcing her into a park.

Mr Justice Butler noted that the case was “an illustration of the fact that rape trials are a very harrowing experience for complainants”.

The Central Criminal Court heard the trial collapsed twice before it went to a jury a third time. It collapsed on the second occasion because the victim had a panic attack.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his then 17-year-old victim, was convicted of one charge of rape after a trial last February.

He had pleaded not guilty to the offence at a west Dublin park on March 7th, 2015. The jury acquitted the man of another rape charge involving the same complainant.

At the sentencing hearing at the Central Criminal Court on Monday, Mr Justice Butler said the difficulty was that the presumption of innocence remained with an accused until they were found guilty.

He said trials continue to be “a source of great stress” to complainants and a discouragement to other victims to come forward and this needed to be addressed.

Mr Justice Butler warned that while “every consideration” must be given to complainants in trials, this should not serve to plant a suggestion of guilt in the jury’s mind.

During the hearing, a detective told Paul Murray SC, prosecuting, the man prevented his victim from going home by grabbing her and took her to a park.

After the assault, the teenager’s mother noticed she was in a distressed state and brought her to a Garda station.

A doctor who examined her noted recent trauma on her right arm and fingers and her genital area.

The man was arrested but maintained the two had had consensual sex.

Victim impact statement

In her victim impact statement, the girl described how her life had changed forever and she suffered fear, anxiety, panic attacks and suicidal thoughts following the attack.

“I never asked for this but it was brutally brought into my life,” she stated.

She said the attack affected her school attendance, that friends had drifted away from her and she had been prescribed medication to help her cope.

Michael Bowman SC, defending, asked the judge to take into account that his client had his own psychological issues and came from a troubled family background.

He said his client had been “blighted” by drug difficulties and was already serving a prison sentence when he was charged with the rape offence.

Mr Justice Butler imposed a six-year sentence with the final year suspended.