Indecent assault conviction is quashed

 

The Court of Criminal Appeal has overturned the conviction of a former Christian Brother who had been found guilty of indecently assaulting a then 15-year-old boy in a Galway institution more than 20 years ago.

The three-judge court allowed a number of grounds of appeal taken in the case of Mr Paul Farrell, now aged 56, with an address at Kinvara Road, Dublin, who had been sentenced by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in July 2001 to a year in jail. Mr Farrell has been on bail since his conviction.

Giving the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday, Mr Justice Geoghegan, presiding, with Mr Justice O'Neill and Mr Justice Murphy, said the court believed, having regard to all the background and surrounding circumstances of the case, it was not appropriate to order a new trial. It would quash the conviction and there would be no retrial.

Following yesterday's decision, Mr Farrell, who was in court during the appeal, said his initial reaction was one of relief. He should not have been in court in the first place, he added.

In the Central Criminal Court, he had been convicted on two counts of indecent assault on dates between November 7th 1980, and March 31st, 1982, when he had worked as deputy director of St Joseph's, Salthill, Galway.

A number of grounds of appeal were advanced by Mr Felix McEnroy SC, for Mr Farrell, during yesterday's hearing in the appeal court. The application for leave to appeal was opposed by the Director of Public Prosecutions. The grounds of appeal claimed that the trial judge had erred in law, or in the alternative erred in a mixed question of law and fact, in relation to his charge to the jury.

One ground submitted that the trial judge had erred in failing or failing adequately to warn the jury of the dangers associated with a criminal trial in relation to allegations of indecent assault where there had been significant delay between the date of the alleged offence and the date of a criminal trial.

It was also contended the trial judge had erred in stating to the jury matters of fact prejudicial to Mr Farrell which were not facts. Counsel also complained the trial judge had erred in telling the jury, after the judge was requisitioned about those matters, that while certain prejudicial matters of fact stated were not facts but conjecture, that conjecture was nonetheless fair comment.

The court said it believed there were good grounds for appeal arising from the trial judge's failure to warn the jury of dangers associated with a trial in relation to allegations of indecent assault where there was an absence of corroboration.