Priest seeks to halt trial on indecent assault charges

Cleric is accused of abusing 14 boys at a Munster secondary school

A priest is seeking permission to bring High Court proceedings aimed at halting his trial on charges of indecently assaulting 14 boys at a secondary school in Munster.

The charges relate to alleged offences between 1969 and 1990 and the priest contends his right to a fair trial has been prejudiced due to a "fatal deficit" of disclosure, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan was told.

Margery Farrelly SC, for the priest, said that deficit arose from the refusal of the Irish Examiner newspaper to disclose documents on foot of which it had published a number of stories concerning the alleged offences.

Following a request from lawyers for the priest, gardaí had asked the newspaper to disclose any documents in its possession related to the stories published.

The stories included interviews with some former pupils of the school, some of whom might be complainants in these proceedings and whose identities were protected via the use of pseudonym, she said.

A Circuit Court judge had indicated the prosecution should take steps to procure the disclosure in circumstances where third party disclosure is not available to an accused, Ms Farrelly said.

The complainants had also indicated they did not object to the material being disclosed but the newspaper last September refused to do so on grounds of its entitlement to protect its sources.

Her client denied the charges in full and was contending the absence of such potentially vital documents entitled him to orders prohibiting his trial. There was no corroborative evidence of the claims made and, without the documents, there cannot be “meaningful” cross-examination of the complainants, she said.

While the Irish Examiner was told none of the complainants objected to disclosure of any documents, the newspaper last October reiterated its refusal to provide them, she added.

Mr Justice Noonan said it was his normal practice to direct ex parte applications (one side only represented) for orders prohibiting trials should be heard on notice to the DPP.

He directed the DPP be put on notice of the application and returned the matter to Thursday.