Man’s sex assault conviction quashed as trial juror was related to victim in separate case

Court of Appeal orders a retrial amid what judge describes as a ‘very unusual’ situation

The Court of Appeal has quashed a man’s sex assault conviction and directed a retrial. File photograph: Getty Images

The Court of Appeal has quashed a man’s sex assault conviction and directed a retrial. File photograph: Getty Images

 

The Court of Appeal has quashed a man’s sex assault conviction and directed a retrial, after it transpired that one of the jurors who convicted him was related to his victim in another case.

The man had gone on trial at a circuit criminal court last year, charged with one count of sexual assault. He was already serving a sentence for defiling a child, an offence to which he had previously pleaded guilty.

The jury in the sex assault trial had returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. As the jury members then left the courtroom, two relatives of the convicted man approached his legal team and said that one of the jurors was related to the victim in the defilement case. They had not been present during the trial as it was conducted “in camera”, or behind closed doors.

The judge was informed, and he instructed gardaí to investigate. They did so and confirmed the relationship.

The man’s legal team appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeal on Friday. Desmond Dockery SC, acting for the man, submitted that the conviction was unsafe and argued for his client’s right under the Constitution to be tried by an unbiased jury.

The State did not argue against the appellant’s submissions, but Patrick Reynolds BL submitted that a retrial be ordered if the court decided to quash the conviction.

President of the Court of Appeal Judge George Birmingham, presiding with Judge Patrick McCarthy and Judge Isobel Kennedy, described the situation as “very unusual”.

They quashed the conviction, directed a retrial and remanded the man in custody to the same circuit court.