A priest accused of sexually assaulting a Co Louth teenager was yesterday acquitted by direction of the trial judge after he ruled that the inadmissibility of the woman's psychiatric notes was prejudicial to the defence.
Father Maeliosa O Hauallachain, of Seafield Road, Killiney, Co Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to three charges of indecent assault on dates between July 31, 1981 and August 2, 1982.
It was alleged that the priest, now aged 72, had assaulted the woman when she was aged between 13 and 14. But Fr O Hauallachain was acquitted on day-four of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.
Judge Frank O'Donnell ruled that the case notes from a consultant psychiatrist, who treated the woman for 10 years, were inadmissible because the author died last year.
He told the jury of five women and seven men that the defendant was "deprived of exploring all avenues because (the notes) could not be produced in evidence".
He said he considered this "unsafe and that is why I am withdrawing the case from you".
The judge told the jury that there had been a suggestion in some of the notes that the complainant may have had a mental condition that could have created certain delusions.
In his ruling, the judge said: "The complainant made clear allegations and . . . the accused made trenchant denials . . . and if that was all I had to deal with the matter would go to the jury."
"The inability to refer to these notes, which may illuminate the complainant's condition poses a real problem to the defence . . . and could lead to an unfair trial," he explained.
The judge added that he found it "very strange indeed" that, although the now dead psychiatrist first carried out a "psycho-sexual investigation" with the teenager in 1984, two and half years after the alleged offences, "it was not until 1994 that the allegation of sexual abuse was first made".
The judge said he had to consider the fact that the complainant alleged sexual abuse by an uncle to a social worker in 1994, but never mentioned the accused priest at that stage.
He said that the complainant, now aged 42, denied that she ever suffered from delusions, which were outlined in the psychiatrist notes, but admitted a "significant mental breakdown".
The judge told Fr O Hauallachain he was free to go.