Sunday 24 September 2017

Trial of former teacher accused of assaulting female students can go ahead

Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

THE High Court has decided that the trial of a retired school teacher, accused of indecently assaulting a number of his former pupils, can go ahead.

The teacher is facing more than 60 charges of indecently assaulting 11 female students at the rural primary school he taught at between 1965 and 1985.

Four of the complainants are sisters.  The teacher cannot be named by order of the court.

Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley today dismissed the man's bid to have his trial permanently prohibited stating he had failed to establish he was at risk of not getting a fair trial.

The teacher, now in his 70s, denies all the charges against him.  He was arrested and charged in late 2011and sent forward for trial before a judge and jury in the Circuit Criminal Court in 2012.

The trial was put on hold after he brought High Court proceedings against the DPP in which he claimed the delay in prosecuting him had prejudiced his defence.

He claimed his health had suffered and his memory of events was now poor and that witnesses who could be assistance to him were since dead.  He also alleged gardai failed to take adequate notes of interviews with the complainants.

Judge O'Malley said the teacher had failed  to establish there was a real serious risk of an unfair trial and cleared the way for his prosecution to go ahead. 

The Judge said it was accepted the man had health problems and was under stress due to the charges he is facing. However this was a normal reaction to being charged with a criminal offence.

She said antiquity of the charges was not in itself sufficient to prohibit the trial. There was well established case law that individuals could be prosecuted over old allegations.

Judge O’Malley said the accused man was in some ways in a better position than some of the accused. A relative was available to give evidence about his way of life for part of the relevant periods and through the efforts of his solicitor there was a number of past pupils prepared to testify he had not indulged in violence or inappropriate touching of his students.

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