Sunday 23 July 2017

Man on teen sex charge wins case to halt trial

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

A BUSINESSMAN accused of having sex with an underage girl has won a Supreme Court appeal to halt his criminal trial because he could not claim in court that he didn't know her age.

The lawsuit is the second major challenge to Ireland's statutory rape laws in the past five years.

The Supreme Court challenge is similar to the infamous CC statutory rape case, which caused a crisis in the Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrats government in 2006.

In that case the Supreme Court found that a 1935 law -- which made it an offence for a man to have sex with a girl under the age of 15 -- was unconstitutional because an accused could not use the defence that he didn't know the age of his alleged victim.

The decision led to a public outcry as it raised the prospect that up to 40 convicted rapists would have to be automatically released from prison.

And it forced the government of the day to introduce the 2006 Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act to plug the gap in Ireland's statutory rape laws.

Victims

This allows defendants to argue they did not know their alleged victims' real ages.

Now another man, who faced trial for allegedly having sex with a 16-year-old female employee, has won a Supreme Court appeal to halt his trial under another section of the law which was struck down by the Supreme Court yesterday.

The man, known as Mr S, claimed his constitutional rights were being violated by another section of the 1935 law, which prohibits him using the defence that he believed the girl was over the age of consent at the time.

At least five men are currently in prison who were convicted under this law, but they are unlikely to be released after the Government successfully challenged the potential release of the 40 men in custody during the original 2006 crisis.

Although Mr S cannot be prosecuted for statutory rape under the now struck-down law, he may face alternative charges in relation to the 2003 incident if these are explored by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The man, now 28, was tried last year after the High Court, having dismissed his claims of unconstitutionality, refused to grant an injunction restraining his trial pending the outcome of his Supreme Court appeal.

The jury failed to agree on a verdict and a retrial has been listed for next year.

Irish Independent

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