Retired priest accused of sexual assault takes challenge to halt trial

Man in his eighties claims he cannot get a fair trial due to cognitive difficulties

Permission to bring the challenge was granted on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Monday. Photohraph: iStock

Permission to bring the challenge was granted on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Monday. Photohraph: iStock

 

A retired Catholic priest accused of sexually assaulting a male over 50 years ago has brought a High Court action aimed at halting his trial before the Circuit Criminal Court.

The man, who is aged in his late eighties, claims that he cannot get a fair trial on grounds including that he suffers from cognitive difficulties and dementia that fundamentally affect his ability to defend the allegations against him.

The accused, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, denies the allegations.

While he has attempted to address the accusations, the accused man’s treating physician has stated in a report that the man’s condition is such that he cannot instruct his legal team, understand the trial proceedings, or give evidence in his defence during his trial.

He is charged with over 40 counts of indecent assault, committed on a then young male between 1967 and 1972.

The alleged assaults are said to have occurred at various locations in south Dublin, including in a room in the facility where the priest lived, a nearby shed, and on wasteland.

It is alleged that the priest came to know the boy through a school, and its football team, that complainant had attended.

The male was primary school student at the time the offences are alleged to have occurred.

The charges are currently pending before the Circuit Criminal Court.

No date has been fixed for the hearing of his criminal trial.

The court heard that the complainant first made statements to the gardaí about the alleged abuse two years ago, and the priest was charged with the offences last year.

In addition to the man’s health, it is further submitted that he is prejudiced by the passage of time, and at trial would be unable to access documents or witnesses that would support his defence.

In his judicial reviews proceedings against the Director of Public Prosections, Ireland and the Attorney General the man seeks various orders and declarations including an injunction prohibiting his trial from taking place.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Monday. The judge adjourned the matter to a date in March.