Liam Adams loses appeal against sexual abuse conviction

Adams (60) sought to have 16-year conviction for rape of daughter Áine overturned

The Court of Appeal in Belfast has rejected an appeal by Liam Adams against his conviction for the sexual abuse of his daughter Áine. His 18-year sentence, two of them on probation, stands.

The three-member court led by the lord chief justice Sir Declan Morgan rejected the several grounds of appeal put forward by Adams' lawyer, Eilis McDermott, QC.

Adams (60), who is brother of the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, was not in court but appeared by video link from Maghaberry Prison. His second wife and other relatives were in the public gallery to support him.

Ms McDermott when initially putting forward the appeal said the fact that Adams is the brother of the Sinn Féin president made the case a “national issue”.

In November 2013 at Belfast Crown Court Judge Corinne Philpott sentenced Liam Adams, who is originally from Bernagh Drive in west Belfast, to 16-years in prison for sexually abusing his daughter Áine between the ages of four and nine.

The offences occurred between 1977 and 1983, when Adams was aged between 22 and 26.

In October 2013, a jury of nine men and three women, by an 11 to 1 majority, found Adams guilty of all 10 charges against him - three counts of rape, three of gross indecency and four of indecent assault.

Ms McDermott in presenting her appeal referred to how there was “extensive publicity” surrounding two cases against Liam Adams in 2013 - the first in April which collapsed over an issue of disclosure and the second beginning in September which resulted in Adams’s conviction.

The Court of Appeal however today rejected the pre-trial publicity argument as well as other arguments that had been put forward by Ms McDermott.

The three judges, Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Justice Gillen and Lord Justice Coghlin in their judgment referred to how Áine Adams’s uncle Gerry Adams who gave evidence in the first trial “was cross examined at length with regard to his credibility”.

They also adverted to how he was not called to give evidence in the second trial and how he was a person “who has attracted significant media interest over many years in a number of differing contexts”.

“There is no doubt that, as a consequence of the personalities involved, these proceedings attracted a very considerable degree of media publicity both before and, to a certain degree, subsequent to the trial,” said the judges.

They found however that Judge Philpott had used her discretion properly to warn the jury about publicity issues and accordingly were “not persuaded that the learned trial judge erred in the exercise of her discretion”.

The judges also rejected the argument that the judge failed to deal properly with the issue of the “burden and standard of proof” and that judge Philpott “specifically observed that the ‘defendant does not have to prove his innocence’”.

The judges also said Judge Philpott dealt correctly and “sensibly” in directing the jury about “inconsistent statements” made during the trial.

They also rejected the argument that Judge Philpott failed to “properly and effectively put the defendant’s case to the jury”.

They further rejected Ms McDermott’s contention that Judge Philpott “improperly intervened in the evidence of the complainant’s mother so as to assist her and the Crown case”.

Concluding the judges said that they “had not been persuaded that the verdict of the jury was unsafe and, consequently, the appeal must be dismissed”.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times