THE Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) has quashed a man's conviction for the rape of a young woman because of remarks made by the trial judge to the jury that heard the case.
The court set aside the conviction imposed on Rafal Adach (31), who was found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court in February 2010 of the oral rape of the then 19-year-old woman at an address in Co Wicklow on September 23, 2007.
Mr Adach, originally from Poland, of Charlesland Crescent in Greystones, Co Wicklow, was subsequently sentenced to seven years in prison by Mr Justice John Edwards. He had denied rape and said that the sexual activity was consensual.
Yesterday, the three-judge CCA upheld the appeal and quashed the conviction. The CCA also ordered that Mr Adach, who was not present in court, was not to be retried.
Mr Adach appealed his conviction on grounds that while giving a direction to the jury regarding the availability of a majority verdict, Mr Justice Edwards, by virtue of the words he used, brought to bear improper pressure on their deliberations, which rendered the verdict unsatisfactory.
Mr Adach's lawyers claimed the judge told the jury, on the second day of their deliberations, that it was "highly undesirable" for them not to agree on a verdict. He told the jury that after giving it their best shot they were entitled to disagree on a verdict.
However, if they could not agree a verdict of no less than 10 jurors, he said "another jury would have the burden of hearing the case all over again".
"There are obvious implications in that regard in terms of the use of resources, the cost of it and the stress for the parties involved," he said.
"So I am urging you, if you can at all, to achieve a verdict. Though if can't, you can't, but I would urge you very much," Mr Justice Edwards said. More than two hours later, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on a majority of 11-1.
Mr Adach's lawyers submitted that what the judge said was improper, and had pressurised the jury into a verdict. The judge's comments had rendered the verdict unsatisfactory and it should be set aside, it was claimed.
The DPP opposed the appeal. When the judge's address to the jury was considered in its entirety there was no unfairness or imbalance in what was said. He had simply informed the jury about the factual position should they disagree.
Giving the CCA's judgment, Mr Justice Liam McKechnie said that a jury must be free to consider its verdict uninfluenced by any form of pressure, whatever its source or nature might be.
The importance of the judge in a trial, and the words used, must not be overlooked, the CCA added. Given the condition of the public finances in 2010, the judge's reference to resources and costs of a retrial may potentially have had an impact on the views and influenced the deliberations of the jurors, the CCA held.