Friday 30 September 2016

Alleged rape victim who has Down syndrome came home 'white as a sheet' and 'retching'

Conor Gallagher

Published 25/11/2015 | 17:46

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An alleged rape victim who has Down syndrome came home “white as a sheet” and “retching” her mother has told a jury.

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The woman, who is in her twenties, became separated from her mother while they were out walking. The accused man found her and took her back to his home where the alleged rape took place.

The accused admits there was some sexual contact with the woman but maintains that it was consensual and that he didn't know she was mentally impaired.

He has pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape, sexual assault and having sex with a mentally impaired person at his Dublin home on June 12, 2013.

When asked about specific characteristics of people with Down syndrome, the woman's mother said they were “very, very trusting”.

“They see the best in people, they like to please, they're very gentle and non-assertive,” she told Caroline Biggs SC, prosecuting.

She said she knew her daughter had Down syndrome the minute she was born and that she hit her developmental milestones later than other children.

She said she went through school and did educational courses but that she couldn't live independently. She said she required supervision for most tasks but that her family tried and allowed her to live as independently as possible.

She said it was difficult to put a mental age on her but that in some areas it could be seven and in others eleven. She said her memory was very good as was her comprehension of spoken language.

The mother said that on the day of the incident she and her daughter were out. She said her daughter was a small distance behind her but that she knew her way home as she was very familiar with the route.

The mother arrived home and became concerned when her daughter didn't arrive back within a few minutes. Her and her husband drove around the area to look for her.

The witness said they arrived home and she was about to call the gardaí when she heard her daughter banging on the door shouting “mum, mum, help, help, let me in.”

She said her daughter was “shaking like a leaf” and couldn't talk. Gardaí arrived and she told them a man had put his penis in her vagina. The witness said she was retching when she described him putting his tongue in her mouth.

Earlier in the day, defence counsel Padraig Dwyer SC, briefly cross-examined the alleged victim via video-link after her direct evidence which had been given to the jury by a pre-recorded DVD.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt and the barristers didn't wear wigs or gowns for the hearing and introduced themselves using their first names.

The woman held a pink teddy as she answered Mr Dwyer's questions from a separate room in the court building. She agreed that she was a very friendly person and would smile at people all the time and say hello.

She said the man came up to her on the street and asked if she was okay and to come with him. She said she spoke to him again when she left the house and agreed that he asked her for her phone number.

In her opening speech, Ms Biggs told the jury that a person could not consent to sex if they did not have the capacity to consent.

Regarding the charge of sex with a mentally impaired person, Ms Biggs said the prosecution would have to prove that sex or attempted sex took place and that the person was mentally impaired at the time.

She said that the law states that a person is mentally impaired if they cannot live independently or protect themselves from serious exploitation.

It is a valid defence for an accused to claim he “did not know and had no reason to suspect” the person was mentally impaired, counsel said.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Hunt and jury of six men and six women.

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