News Courts

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Christian Brother (71) fails in bid to have sex abuse trial stopped

Tim Healy

Published 17/01/2014 | 16:54

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Christian Brother failed in his bid to have trial halted

A 71-YEAR-old former Christian Brother has failed to have his trial on multiple sex abuse charges stopped.

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The former brother and teacher had sought to prohibit his trial on 251 counts of indecent assault on 17 children he taught in the 1970s and 1980s.  

The offences were alleged to have taken place in the classroom, the environs of the school and at a swimming pool where the accused assisted in the teaching of swimming.

He claimed he would not get a fair trial because of a lengthy delay in both initiating the prosecution and in processing the case through the courts.  He also said it would be unjust in all the particular circumstances of the case to put him on trial at all.

The DPP denied his claims saying it was a complex investigation.  The public interest in having the multiple allegations against him prosecuted outweighed the effect of any delay.

Mr Justice Kearns said the fact that the man had previously faced trial on a number of other occasions over similar allegations and had not been convicted might be thought to have to weigh heavily on the court's decision, by such a perception would be "gravely mistaken."

The other allegations related to offences allegedly committed in another school and the former brother had also failed in a bid to stop that trial, the judge said.

He had spent four years in custody awaiting trial in relation to those charges, but as another High Court judge noted, this was because he opted to remain in custody rather than face significant harassment and vilification from the media on the outside, he said.

Mr Justice Kearns said this latest challenge was brought just five days before the trial was due to begin. This background had to be considered when dealing with the issue of blameworthy delay.

The High Court and Supreme Court had repeatedly condemned and deprecated such last minute applications which have the effect of delaying a trial, in some cases for years, when all the preparatory(trial) work has been completed.  "This is another such case", he said.

While this was an old case, in that the complaints went back many years, the fact that it involved a complex and detailed investigation was not really challenged by the former brother's lawyers.

What they (lawyers) had focused on was that this was  a garda-driven investigation in which officers sought to interview more people than

perhaps was necessary.  

This "line of attack" was difficult to comprehend given that it was more usual in these case for gardai to be criticised for being lackadaisical or slovenly, the judge said.

The court had been told the former brother is quite frail and suffers from a number of chronic medical conditions including depression, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.

The judge said the medical evidence does not suggest he is incapable of participating in the trial process and while it will cause significant stress and anxiety to him, the same could be said of any citizen facing multiple charges of this nature.

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