Man fails to halt his trial on sex abuse charges

Man charged with more than 12 counts of indecently assaulting girl during 1960s

The man claimed, due to lapse of time and loss of material evidence, there was a real and serious risk he will not get a fair trial. Photograph: Collins Courts

The man claimed, due to lapse of time and loss of material evidence, there was a real and serious risk he will not get a fair trial. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

The High Court has cleared the way for the trial of a man accused of sexually abusing a female relative more than 50 years ago. The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had sought to halt his prosecution.

He claimed, due to lapse of time and loss of material evidence, there was a real and serious risk he will not get a fair trial. He is charged with more than 12 counts of indecently assaulting a female when she was just eight-years-old during the early 1960s. He denies the charges.

The DPP had opposed his judicial review application.

In her judgment on Wednesday, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy refused the application and said his trial before the Circuit Criminal Court should proceed. Arguments advanced by the man, who is in his late seventies, did not establish the exceptional circumstances which would warrant the prohibition of his trial, she held.

The judge said she was not finding the accused man was not prejudiced in the conduct of his defence but was merely following decisions that the issue of prejudice is a matter for the judge hearing the trial. She noted the complainant has alleged she was indecently assaulted by the man at her family home when he visited with his mother.

Prejudice

The complainant first made a statement to gardaí in 2016. In his statement to gardaí in 2017, the man denied her allegations and said he did not attend at the complainant’s home at the times of the alleged offences and was working overseas at the relevant time.

The man, who has a number of medical conditions, also said he was prejudiced by the delays. He said he was prejudiced by the deaths of witnesses including his mother and sister who, he said, could have confirmed what he said. He also said, due to the passage of time, he is unable to obtain documentary evidence to support his assertions.

The judge said it could be argued the issue of delay in prosecutions had received more judicial scrutiny in the past quarter-century than any other single legal point, particularly as the awareness of the extent of child abuse in Ireland grew. In many of these cases, the complaints centred around events that happened decades earlier, she said.

The judge said the Supreme Court had made clear, until the government imposes a statute of limitation on sexual offences, “delay per se is not a bar to prosecution”. The law had evolved to a point the court of trial is the forum where prejudice caused by delay is to be tested, she said. The trial court has all the tools necessary to test the significance of disputed or lost of missing evidence, she added.