Trial for man accused of sexually abusing his daughter begins in Croke Park

First criminal trial taking place in Croke Park opens before a jury

The Central Criminal Court is hosting trials at GAA Headquarters due to social distancing and public health requirements. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

The Central Criminal Court is hosting trials at GAA Headquarters due to social distancing and public health requirements. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

Legal history was made on Wednesday morning when the first criminal trial to take place in Croke Park opened before a jury.

The Central Criminal Court trial is running at GAA headquarters to facilitate social distancing and other public health safety measures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The trial running involves a woman claiming that her father sexually abused her and is subject to reporting restrictions. Due to the nature of the charges it is proceeding “in camera”, meaning it is closed to members of the public.

Opening the trial for the prosecution, Garnet Orange SC told the jurors that they should approach the evidence in a clinical, impartial and dispassionate manner and leave aside any views they each might have on sexual offending.

He said that the defendant, who is accused of oral rape and sexual assault of his daughter between the years 2000 and 2007, is entitled to the presumption of innocence and this doesn’t shift until the prosecution can prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt.

The complainant, now aged in her 20s, gave evidence that her mother had died when she was very young and she went into foster care. She said from the age of four her father began getting limited access to her and this was arranged through the HSE.

She said her father, now aged 64, was drunk most of the time and lived in a dilapidated house. She said there was no toilet in the cottage and one bedroom which had dirty pillow, dirty duvet and a dirty mattress.

She said the man had a plastic bag of old video tapes of pornography, which he forced the child to watch and would masturbate himself at the same time.

She said she was aged between four and seven when her father forced her to perform oral sex on him. She said he would also sexually assault her by molesting her.

Defence counsel Fiona Murphy SC told the woman that the accused denies all the allegations.

She said he does accept he had an issue with alcohol and that this was “monitored carefully by the HSE” and by her foster parents at the time.

She said there were occasions when her client would contact the foster parents and cancel access visits because he had been drinking and didn’t think it would be fair to take her.

The complainant said she wasn’t aware of any of this. She accepted Ms Murphy’s submission that earlier this year she initiated civil proceedings against the HSE and her foster parents.

The man denies charges of sexual assault and child neglect on unknown dates between April 2000 and December 2008. The trial continues.

At the opening of the trial shortly before 11am Justice David Keane told the jury of eight men and four women that they were participating in “a little piece of history”.

He said that to facilitate public safety measures Croke Park had kindly made the facilities at the arena available to the Courts Service and this is the first Central Criminal Court trial to be conducted here.

He said his task is to ensure that this trial is conducted in the same way as every other criminal trial. He said that physical distancing should be maintained and that face masks should be worn except where there are medical reasons for not doing so.

The court is sitting in a function room, about 20 metres by 50 metres, in which about 40 fold-out tables have been arranged with chairs.

Fitted desk units with plexi-glass screens have been set up to house the defendant, courts service staff, witnesses giving evidence, and the judge. In addition, the judge’s bench is on a raised platform.