Retired priest seeks to stop child sex abuse trial going ahead

Accused faces four charges dating back to the 1960s involving secondary student in Galway

A retired priest is seeking a High Court order halting his trial on charges of child sexual abuse dating back to the 1960s. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

A retired priest is seeking a High Court order halting his trial on charges of child sexual abuse dating back to the 1960s. File photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times.

 

A retired priest is seeking a High Court order halting his trial on charges of child sexual abuse dating back to the 1960s.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is facing four charges of sexual assault of a female on dates between 1966 and 1969.

The complainant was a secondary school student and a minor at the time of the alleged assaults in Co Galway.

The first assault is alleged to have taken place in the room of an abbey. Two other assaults took place when the girl was bringing communion for Sunday Mass to a convent, it is alleged. She claims the accused waited for her near the convent, before violently assaulting her on those occasions.

The fourth charge relates to an incident around Christmas time, when she claims the man came up behind her, pushed her against a wall and assaulted her.

The man, now aged in his 80s, denies the allegations. He claims he cannot get a fair trial due to delay between the time of the alleged offences and when he was charged.

Prejudice

He also claims he will suffer prejudice because he has age related dementia and cognitive impairment that has affected his memory.

His trial has been set down before the Circuit Criminal Court but, due to delays caused by the Covid19 pandemic, it is not known when his trial will take place.

Represented by Hugh Hartnett SC, the man argues the alleged events took place more than 50 years ago. He claims there was a considerable delay when the complainant first reported the allegations in 2017 and his being charged last December. No explanation has been given for the delay in charging the man who was first interviewed about the allegations by gardaí in 2018, counsel said.

Due to his medical condition, which counsel said is dynamic and progressive, it was unlikely the man will be able to defend himself should the case go to trial before a judge and jury.

In judicial review proceedings against the Director of Public Prosecutions, he claims the prosecution is guilty of inordinate prosecutorial delay which has deprived him of a fair trial contrary to his rights under the Constitution and European Convention of Human Rights.

On Monday, Mr Justice Charles Meenan, on an ex-parte basis, granted permission to bring the challenge and placed a stay on the trial pending the outcome of the judicial review.