A MAN'S trial for the rape of an eight-year-old girl when he was 15 has been stopped by order of the High Court.
The alleged incident occurred in July 2008 but the man was not charged until July 2012, just before his 20th birthday.
The case arose from an alleged incident on a night in July 2008 at a party to celebrate a family event. The man was the son of a family friend and well-known to the eight-year-old girl.
It was alleged he took her into a bathroom, locked the door, raped her vaginally and attempted to, or did, rape her anally. The child told her mother and a garda investigation was initiated. On July 7, the accused made a statement containing admissions about the girl and about another girl.
In a judgment yesterday dealing with the rights of children charged with serious offences, Ms Justice Iseult O'Malley ruled the man, now aged 21, was entitled to orders restraining his prosecution on grounds the four-year delay in charging him had deprived him both of his right to be tried as a child and his right to anonymity.
There is "a special duty" on the prosecuting authorities to expedite cases involving children but there was "a serious failure" of the system in this case, she said. In this case, the delays arose despite the fact the investigation was "quite straightforward", the judge noted.
The only explanations given for the delay were that the original garda officer in charge of the investigation had been moved to another county and a suggestion of a misunderstanding in the National Juvenile Office as to whether it had received certain documents from the gardai. Neither explanation was adequate, she said.
The strongest argument in favour of letting the trial proceed was that the man was charged with very serious offences against a very young girl, she said.
It was undoubtedly correct there was a public interest in a court decision on his guilt or innocence.
However, in this case, the reality was there had been all but a formal plea of guilty on the man's part and he had worked "very hard" over two years in a treatment and rehabilitation programme posited on his acceptance of guilt for his actions. It seemed to her "quite wrong" to put his achievements at risk at this stage.
Admission to the particular programme also means the relevant child may not be prosecuted for the relevant offending behaviour, she noted.
The judge outlined a long chronology of events during 2008, 2009,2010, 2011 and 2012 relating to communications between the gardai, the National Juvenile Office and the DPP.