Jury should not have heard man was convicted for abusing sisters

Accused successfully appeals conviction for raping boy between 1990 and 1994

Giving judgment in the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the alleged victim’s sisters’ accounts “ought not” to have been admitted at the trial because of their “overwhelming prejudicial effect” for the accused. File photograph: iStockPhoto

Giving judgment in the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the alleged victim’s sisters’ accounts “ought not” to have been admitted at the trial because of their “overwhelming prejudicial effect” for the accused. File photograph: iStockPhoto

 

A man has successfully appealed his conviction for raping a boy after the Court of Appeal ruled that evidence about the accused having previously abused the victim’s sisters should not have been presented to the jury.

The man had pleaded not guilty to one count of indecent assault, eight counts of sexual assault and five counts of raping a boy at his home and locations near his home on dates between 1990 and 1994.

He was found guilty in October 2015 at the Central Criminal Court and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment, with the final five suspended. He has previous convictions for abusing the boy’s sisters in the 1990s.

The man’s barrister, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, had previously told the Court of Appeal his client had pleaded guilty to abusing the alleged victim’s sisters, but had denied abusing him.

Decision ‘erroneous’

The first ground for appeal against his conviction, the court heard, was that the decision by the judge to admit into evidence the accounts provided by the alleged victim’s sisters was “erroneous”.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the alleged victim’s sisters’ accounts “ought not” to have been admitted because of their “overwhelming prejudicial effect” for the accused. He added that there was a “very considerable risk that the jury would convince themselves of the appellant’s guilt because of that information alone”.

This ground of appeal must therefore succeed, the judge said.

The second ground of appeal was that the judge was wrong to refuse to discharge the jury in the light of the alleged victim’s words and his demeanour in the course of his cross-examination.

The court had previously heard that in response to a line of questioning, the complainant had said the accused was a “dirty dog” who “should be shot” and “shouldn’t have his day in court”.

Mr McGuinness had said the complainant then spat at the defendant.

Mr Justice Mahon said that “while the unruly and anger-prompted outbursts from the complainant were unfortunate, they were not sufficient to justify the discharge of the jury”.

Delay and corroboration

A third ground of appeal was that the trial judge “erroneously or inadequately” charged the jury in relation to the issues of delay and corroboration.

Mr Justice Mahon said the court was satisfied the instructions provided by the judge were “perfectly adequate”.

He concluded that based on the inclusion of the evidence of the sisters’ abuse in the trial, the court would allow the appeal, quashing the jury verdict and conviction.

The accused was remanded on bail on his own bond of €100. He will appear again at the Court of Appeal on March 13th, when the issue of a retrial will be argued.