Rape case appeal ruling likely today


Judgment in the High Court appeal by the parents of a 13-year-old pregnant rape victim against a Children's Court order allowing her to travel to England for an abortion is expected to be given this afternoon.

Yesterday the hearing before Mr Justice Geoghegan concluded on the third day of submissions by legal teams for the parents, the girl, the Eastern Health Board, the Attorney General and the interests of the unborn. The hearing was held in camera.

In the afternoon, before the hearing resumed after lunch, all the parties went to the Supreme Court and asked that in the event of an appeal after the judgment is delivered, they could lodge appeal papers later in the day.

It was stated that the judgment was likely to be delivered this afternoon, and the Supreme Court indicated that if documentation was lodged in time it would be possible to hear the appeal speedily.

The Chief Justice, Mr Justice Hamilton, said if there was an appeal the legal teams could go in at 4 p.m. today to lodge the papers. It is expected that the appeal will begin at noon on Monday.

In the case, the Attorney General has appointed a separate legal team to represent the interests of the unborn.

It is not the first time that the interests of the unborn have been represented in court. In April 1995 the Supreme Court heard submissions on the referral by the President, Mrs Robinson, on whether the Regulation of Information (Services outside the State for Termination of Pregnancies) Bill 1995 was repugnant to the Constitution.

As it was a constitutional referral, it was the court's function to appoint counsel, and on that occasion it nominated three separate legal teams to represent the right to life of the unborn, the right to life of the mother and the view of the State.

Mr Peter Kelly SC, now a High Court judge, represented the right to life of the unborn and made submissions arguing against abortion and for the rights of the child in utero.

The court held that the Bill was not repugnant to the Constitution and reaffirmed the X case judgment that the termination of the life of the unborn was permissible if it was established as a matter of probability that there was a real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother.

In the Supreme Court case of the Attorney General versus X, in which a 14-year-old pregnant rape victim and her family appealed against a decision not to let her travel to Britain for an abortion, there was no separate representation to argue on behalf of the unborn child.

Mr John Rogers SC, represented the appellants, and Mr Peter Shanley SC - now also a High Court judge - and Mr James O'Reilly SC, represented the State. Mr O'Reilly is appearing in the current case, representing the interests of the unborn.