A FORMER religious brother and primary school teacher has had his convictions for sexually abusing four boys at a school more than 40 years ago quashed.
The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was sentenced in 2010 to 12 months imprisonment by Judge Patrick McCartan after a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury found him guilty on 35 counts of indecent assault of the boys in a school he taught at.
Today, a three-judge Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) found there were errors with several of the man's convictions which could not be isolated from the other convictions. These errors included that the trial judge had been insufficiently clear in his charge to the jury.
In the court's view, all the convictions against the man, now in his sixties, could not be sustained and must be be quashed.
No retrial was ordered.
The DPP had opposed the appeal and had argued the convictions were safe.
The man had denied the offences which allegedly occurred July 1968, and June 1977 to boys in his class. The complainants made a number of allegations including that he would call them up to a desk at the top of his classroom and fondle their private parts.
He appealed that his conviction was unsafe on several grounds.
The CCA said yesterday the trial judge had erred by failing to withdraw the counts relating to one complainant from the jury and by failing to warn the jurors of the dangers of convicting on the phenomenon of recovered memory.
Among a number of errors that had occurred in the trial were a reference to one of the accusers being an honest man and that the jury did not have central issues including corroboration of witness sufficiently and clearly explained to them.
The CAA said the trial judge had also erred, in his charge to the jury explaining recovered memory in which he drew a comparison with of an IT professional recovering an item from the hard disk of a computer.
The memories of two of the complainants was a central issue in the case, the CCA found. The two complainants in their evidence had acknowledged that having no memory of the alleged abuse over a period of 25 years until approached by the Gardai.
In a case where there was so little advance of detail and memory, the explanation given by the trial judge of recovered memory "was in this court's view a significant error."
The CCA said that the case involved allegations that took place many
years ago. The allegations against the man, the DPP had argued, intertwined with and had supported each other.
The CCA found that it was not possible in this case to isolate the errors in the trial which undermined some of the convictions.
Therefore, all the convictions were dismissed.