THE Court of Criminal Appeal has reserved judgement in the case of a Kerry grandfather appealing against his conviction for the repeated rape and sexual assault of his young niece over 20 years ago.
In February of last year, Patrick Hegarty (69), of Ross Road, Killarney, was sentenced to seven years with the final five years suspended by Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan after a Central Criminal Court jury found him guilty of repeatedly raping his young English niece in the summer of 1991.
Hegarty, a former pest control company employee, was convicted of nine rape counts and eight sex assault charges during a seven-day trial.
The jury acquitted Hegarty on a further six rape counts. He has no previous convictions. Hegarty had pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of rape and eight counts of sexual assault of the then 15-year-old girl on dates between May and September 1991.
The Court of Criminal Appeal on Monday also reserved judgement in a concurrent appeal brought by the State against undue leniency in the sentence imposed on Hegarty.
Counsel for the applicant, Mr Timothy O'Leary, SC, told the three-judge court that the trial judge erred in principle by failing to conduct a significantly extensive inquiry in to the dismissal of one juror who had conducted internet research in to evidence given by a witness in the trial.
He said that Mr Justice Sheehan also failed to adequately charge the jury on the particular effect of the delay in time between the offences and the trying of the case at court.
Ms Marjorie Farrelly, SC, for the State, submitted it was clear that the trial judge had followed a careful and correct course and had followed the leading legal authorities in holding an inquiry in to what had occurred in relation to the juror and by taking the appropriate steps afterward.
She said that in charging the jury, the trial judge covered all the essential features of a warning that ought to be delivered to a jury in cases characterised by considerable delay.
In relation to the appeal against the sentence on the grounds of undue leniency, Ms Farrelly said the trial judge erred in failing to have sufficient regard to the gravity of the offences, which featured a young victim travelling on her own for the first time.
She said the "real concern" was the suspension of the final five years of the seven year sentence, which she submitted was unduly lenient.
Ms Farrelly said that Mr Justice Sheehan had erred through his overreliance on a report by Judge Michael Reilly that supported the submission that prison life would be difficult for Hegarty and his family.
In reply, Mr O'Leary said that it would "defy logic" for a High Court judge not to have regard to the terms of imprisonment on a 69-year-old man with no previous convictions.
He said that Hegarty been placed on the sex offenders register, which had a deterrent and rehabilitative effect, while the suspended portion of the sentence served a similar function.
Mr O'Leary told the court that Hegarty, who was released in July, had already served a significant amount of time in prison.
Presiding judge Mr Justice John Murray, sitting with Mr Justice Eamon de Valera and Mr Justice Brian McGovern, said the court would return judgement on both appeals at a later date.