Sexual assault accused fails in challenge over change of plea

Man had been on trial pleading not guilty to assaulting two women

The man sacked his legal team and said the change of plea to guilty was a mistake. Photograph: Collins Courts

The man sacked his legal team and said the change of plea to guilty was a mistake. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

A man on trial for sexual assault has failed in a High Court challenge seeking to change a guilty plea back to not guilty after two more alleged victims were allowed give evidence against him.

The man had been on trial pleading not guilty to assaulting two women, but when the trial judge ruled the evidence of two other women, who alleged he also assaulted them, could be admitted, he changed it to guilty.

He sacked his legal team and said the change of plea to guilty was a mistake. He said he wanted to revert to pleading not guilty as the guilty plea was made in a state of panic and he was on the anxiety drug Xanax at the time.

The trial judge in the Circuit Criminal Court ruled he could not alter his plea, saying the accused had full mental capacity at the time he changed his plea to guilty and had full and extensive legal advice from his (first) legal team that he was likely to get a less severe sentence with a guilty plea.

The trial judge also said it appeared the rationale for wanting to change back to not guilty was that the State was going to seek that he be remanded in custody pending sentencing on a guilty plea.

The accused was on trial in 2018 for alleged assaults on two women in August and September in his business premises. Another case was pending in relation to assaults on two other women but had not been listed for hearing.

When the Circuit Court refused to allow him to change back to not guilty, he brought a High Court challenge against that ruling. The State opposed the judicial review challenge.

On Friday, Mr Justice Garrett Simons dismissed his challenge on the basis that there is an adequate alternative remedy available to the accused – namely his right of appeal to the Court of Appeal against conviction and sentence.

He was satisfied the trial judge had not erred and that the judge’s findings of fact which the accused complained of were all ones which were open to the judge to make on the basis of the affidavit evidence before him.