Wednesday 18 October 2017

Man to go on trial for raping two sisters when they were children

The High Court, Dublin
The High Court, Dublin

Aodhan O'Faolain

A man charged with sexual offences against two sisters when they were young children has failed to get High Court orders stopping his trial.

In opposing the man’s claim his trial should not proceed due to delay of some 40 years in making their complaints, the sisters said the delay was for reasons including trying to protect their widowed mother.

Their mother had mental health issues, had told one sister the man, a family friend, had raped her and also tried to kill herself on a number of occasions, it was claimed.

Now in his early seventies, the man is charged with a total of 29 indecent assault offences against the sisters on dates relating to the period 1967-71 when they were aged between nine and 13.  He was put on notice of their allegations in July 2014 and arrested and charged in 2015.

A third sister also alleged the man indecently assaulted her when she was aged about four or five but the DPP has not prosecuted in relation to those claims.

In judicial review proceedings aimed at stopping his trial, the man denied all the charges and also denied the claims by the third sister or having raped their mother. He had a “good friendly relationship” with the mother which continued for a time after the alleged abuse, he claimed.

He claimed the sisters deliberately chose to delay making complaints to gardai, after having discussed the alleged abuse between them some decades ago, until after their mother had died.

He said that prejudiced his right to a fair trial for reasons including, he claimed, the mother would have given evidence the rape claim in relation to her was false.

In her judgment, Ms Justice Una Ni Raifeartaigh said the evidence did not support his claim the sisters deliberately delayed making their complaints to ensure their mother would never be able to give evidence.

The evidence suggests their intention was to protect their mother, who apparently had poor mental health since they were children, from the stresses of a trial, she said.

It was not clear if the mother would ever have been able to give evidence given her history of mental illness. In the event, the complaints were made before her death but at a time when she had reached a state of incapacity such that she would not be a competent witness.

The evidence indicated the mother's alleged claims she was raped by the man appeared to have been circulating within the family as far back as the 1990s, when it appeared no criminal complaint was being contemplated, and there would be no apparent benefit to anyone to falsity such a rape allegation, she said.

It seemed "far-fetched" for the man to suggest there was a real possibility the mother, if she could give evidence, would have definitely stated she was not raped by him. The issue whether that rape happened was also a collateral issue in the trial as the assault charges concerned the two daughters.

She also refused to halt the trial on age and health grounds. A 2016 report of a cardiac surgeon had stated the man had made an “excellent” recovery following by-pass heart surgery and he was not at the "extreme" end of the age spectrum in such cases.

While the grounds did not merit preventing this trial before it begins, the trial judge would undoubtedly have regard to the lapse of time and will be able to monitor the trial as it unfolds, she added.

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