Thursday 18 January 2018

Drama teacher who raped a student (7) appeals conviction as juror accused of 'laughing and winking'

The Central Criminal Court
The Central Criminal Court

A drama teacher who raped a student when she was around seven years old is to launch an appeal against his conviction because a juror was allegedly “smiling and winking” at gardaí during his trial.

Defence counsel Colm Smyth SC told a sentencing hearing that he had nothing to say in mitigation because his client still maintained his innocence and rejected the jury's verdict.

However, he said an appeal was to be launched against the verdict and one of the issues would be the juror's alleged behaviour during the trial which took place last month.

Mr Smyth added that the juror was present in the Central Criminal Court today for the sentencing hearing and was seen in consultation with gardaí all morning.

The 56 year old accused had pleaded not guilty to rape at an Offaly school on a date between 1996 and 1998. He was convicted on both counts.

Today Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan adjourned finalisation of sentencing until this Friday and remanded the man on continuing bail.

The victim, who is now aged 25, began her emotional victim impact statement by quoting the poem “The Forge” by Seamus Heaney. “All I know is a door into the dark”, she told the court.

She said she felt like she “was given a life sentence at the age of six.” She felt “humiliated and degraded” throughout the trial process which she found “exceptionally difficult.”

She said she had trouble with State exams because they were held in halls similar to the one she was raped in. She also had to give up certain sports because they took place in halls.

She concluded that the rape hadn't destroyed her and she was slowly learning to cope with the help of therapy.

Counsel for the DPP, Justin Dillon SC said the offence was at the higher end of the scale of seriousness because of the age of the victim, the man's position of trust and the injuries he caused her.

Mr Dillon told the court that the accused taught a drama class in the school but was not officially a teacher there.

The victim told the trial that she was in his class and was in the hall one day, possibly to help the teacher or for extra auditions. She said the man asked her if she wanted to play a game . He told her he loved her and she was his “little angel”.

He raped her and sodomised her. She said the the pain was “unbelievable” and she thought she was going to die. She was bleeding afterwards.

She recalled hearing a brush drop and saw that the caretaker had seem then. The girl left the hall and the caretaker “went for” the accused, she said.

She said a woman saw her crying and another woman took her to the bathroom. When she came out of the bathroom one of the women was waiting for her, she said.

She recalled the woman saying “You don't want to tell your mammy this, you don't want to upset her.”

The trial heard evidence from the caretaker that he saw the girl on the man's knee. He said he saw the man zipping up his trousers and noticed he had an erection. However the caretaker denied punching the accused and breaking his glasses.

A statement from the local priest was read to the jury which stated that he received a complaint from the caretaker and took the matter to gardaí.

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