Thursday 18 July 2019

Former soap actor who orally raped woman tried to get lawyers to grill victim on sexual history

  • Former Ros na Rún actor found guilty of orally raping woman
  • Due to be sentenced in July
  • Defence made a late application in absence of jury to cross-examine woman on sexual history
Garrett Phillips had been in a West End ‘Rat Pack’ show
Garrett Phillips had been in a West End ‘Rat Pack’ show
Reporting restrictions were lifted allowing Garrett Phillips’s identity to be revealed by the media

Aoife Nic Ardghail

A former Ros na Rún actor who orally raped a woman tried to get his lawyers to grill the victim on her sexual history because she changed her Facebook profile picture a week after the attack.

Garrett Phillips (46) was convicted last month after a five day trial of orally raping the then 20-year-old woman in his brother's van in the early hours of November 5, 2015.

Phillips, of St Mary's Terrace, Taylors Hill, Galway, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the crime. He will be sentenced in July.

During legal argument in the trial, Barry White SC, defending, made a late application in the absence of the jury to cross-examine the woman on her sexual history.

In rape and sex assault trials, complainants may be cross-examined on their sexual history with a barrister present to represent them.

Lawyers for the accused usually make the application to cross-examine sexual history as early as possible and before the complainant gives direct evidence to the jury.

Mr White made his application after the third day at trial, submitting that he saw “certain significance” in some of the woman's social media that was downloaded by Phillips.

The court heard this involved Twitter comments which Mr White said contained sexual innuendo and the woman changing her Facebook profile picture eight days after the assault.

He also referred to the woman's Garda statement where she mentioned oral sex with another man whom she had been seeing.

He suggested to Ms Justice Eileen Creedon that oral sex might “not be to everybody's taste” and that he didn't know what the jury's attitude to the act may be.

Paul Burns SC, prosecuting, said he failed to see the relevance of the downloaded material and didn't think anyone could “seriously state that oral sex is a bizarre and unusual activity”.

He said the law described it as unacceptable to make an application to cross-examine a complainant on sexual history after their direct evidence, unless it meets a bar of relevance.

He added that it should never be used as a form of character assassination, especially with young complainants.

Ms Justice Creedon refused Mr White's application, saying that an updated profile photo did not meet the relevance test to allow for cross-examining the woman on her sexual history.

She added that the defence's contention that oral sex is unusual also did not meet the test.

There was further legal argument after Mr White asked the woman before the jury if she owned a Twitter account.

In the jury's absence, Mr White revealed the relevance for his questioning was that the woman engaged in sexual innuendo. He said this was then relevant to the issue of consent in the trial.

Mr Burns replied that it was entirely irrelevant, it didn't address specific issues on what happened on the night and served a “general character attack”.

He submitted to Ms Justice Creedon that “saying somebody engages in sexual innuendo does not mean they consent to sex”.

The judge agreed the Twitter comments downloaded by Phillips and given to Mr White were irrelevant and should not be put to the woman.

During the trial, the woman revealed that she fell asleep in Phillips' van after accepting his offer of a lift home. She said she next woke up on the outskirts of Galway city to find Phillips standing over her in the van with his penis in her mouth.

Phillips claimed to gardaí that they had engaged in consensual sexual activity and he described himself as a “Good Samaritan” by offering her the lift.

He claimed he had had consensual oral sex with the woman and that it had “felt chemical” between them.

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