Judge rules ex-priest not guilty on two charges in abuse trial

 

JUSTICE FRANK O’Donnell of the Circuit Criminal Court yesterday directed that a former Dublin priest be found not guilty on two charges in his trial for child rape and sex abuse. The judge also expressed frustration at daily delays in the trial.

One of the charges dropped alleged buggery by the defendant in an open area near where the complainant lived and the second alleged indecent assault on the same occasion.

The defendant continues to face 14 charges, five of buggery and nine of indecent assault, on a then altar boy between June 1st, 1979, and June 30th, 1983. The boy was aged between seven and 11 over the period.

Yesterday, the third day of the trial, was marked by lengthy legal argument with the jury requested to withdraw twice, before being summoned a third time shortly before 1pm to be told proceedings were adjourned until 10.30am on Monday. The jury had to withdraw twice on Thursday and once on Wednesday as counsel made submissions/applications.

Expressing his frustration at this, before announcing the adjournment yesterday, Justice O’Donnell described it as “a crazy set-up”. The case had been “pending for a long, long time,” he said, and also referred to the “waste of time and of money” involved. “I really feel that in this particular case there have been stoppages which should have been avoided,” he said.

The withdrawn charges alleged buggery and indecent assault on February 10th, 1980, the complainant’s eighth birthday. In evidence to the court the complainant said the alleged incident occurred when he was “nine or 10, definitely not eight”. He agreed he had said in statements to gardaí in 1998 and 1999 that it occurred in 1980.

Evidence presented by David Keane, defending, was that the defendant attended at two baptisms on the 1980 date. The complainant’s father told the court yesterday that his son had been baptised at the family home by the defendant at 4pm that day and that he took part in celebrations until 10pm-10.30pm that night.

Another defence witness who was a head nun between 1978 and 1982 at a convent in the parish where the defendant was a curate, said his responsibilities included saying the 7.30am Mass at an oratory in the convent.

“There were no altar servers” at that Mass, she said. She “couldn’t say for definite” the defendant said all weekday Masses there.