Thursday 8 December 2016

Judge will rule tomorrow if Áras Attracta assault trial should proceed

Published 06/01/2016 | 02:30

Aras Attracta. Photo: Keith Heneghan
Aras Attracta. Photo: Keith Heneghan

A decision on whether to proceed with a trial against five workers charged with assault at a care facility will be made tomorrow.

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It follows serious concerns raised by defence counsel about missing and deleted files in the recordings provided to the State by RTÉ.

During the trial of five workers charged with assault at the Áras Attracta care facility, in Swinford, Co Mayo, it emerged that six files recorded by RTÉ's undercover camera were deleted while six more failed to transfer onto the drive later presented to gardaí.

After hearing applications from all five defence counsel for the cases to be dismissed, Judge Mary Devins said she wanted time to consider all aspects before the court. She will also consider a request from State prosecutor Patrick Reynolds to allow the RTÉ hard drive at the centre of the case to be examined by Garda IT experts.

Earlier, Judge Devins said the decision to prosecute was based on "incomplete evidence". She made the comments at Castlebar District Court after it emerged there was a discrepancy between the master tape held by RTÉ and the one furnished to the State.

In cross-examination, Paul Maguire, head of the Investigations Unit at RTÉ, said he couldn't explain the discrepancy but he insisted that none of these files had been deleted nor suppressed. "I can guarantee you no files were suppressed. We have nothing to hide," he added.

He corrected defence counsel Eoin Garavan, who stated the files missing from the hard drive handed by RTÉ to gardaí had been deleted.

"They were not deleted," he said, to which Mr Garavan replied: "Well, (they were) not made available to the defence and the prosecution."

Judge Devins reminded the court that the prosecution was taken by the DPP, not RTÉ, based on evidence "totally garnered" by RTÉ. However, she said it was now clear that was "incomplete evidence".

Defence counsel for each accused called for dismissal on the grounds that it was unsafe to proceed given concerns about the footage.

Mr Reynolds said there was clear evidence against the defendants caught on CCTV and this was not affected by the missing files. He said the defence had attempted to put RTÉ on trial.

Five people are facing charges of assault at Bungalow Three, Áras Attracta, Swinford, Co Mayo - Pat McLoughlin (56), Lalibela, Mayfield, Claremorris, Co Mayo; Christina Delaney (35), Seefinn, Lissatava, Hollymount, Co Mayo; Anna Ywunong Botsimbo (34), Low Park Avenue, Charlestown, Co Mayo; Joan Walsh (42), Carrowilkeen, Curry, Co Sligo; and Kathleen King (56), Knockshanvally Straide, Foxford in Co Mayo. They all face a single charge of assault alleged to have taken place on dates in November 2014.

Each denies the charge.

Irish Independent

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