Thursday 21 November 2019

Liam Adams loses appeal against convictions and sentence for raping and abusing his daughter

Liam Adams
Liam Adams

Liam Adams, a brother of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, has lost an appeal against his convictions and sentence for raping and abusing his daughter.

The 59-year-old was jailed for 16 years in 2013 after being found guilty of a string of attacks against his elder daughter, Aine Dahlstrom.

Delivering a reserved judgment, Lord Justice Patrick Coghlin said: "The court has not been persuaded that the verdict of the jury was unsafe and, consequently, the appeal must be dismissed."

Adams, formerly of Bernagh Drive in West Belfast, was convicted of 10 offences against Mrs Dahlstrom - three counts of rape, four of indecent assault and three of gross indecency.

He watched the court proceedings via video link from Maghaberry high security prison.

The panel of three judges rejected all grounds of appeal, including pre-trial publicity, the credibility of witnesses and how the trial judge Corinne Philpott directed the jury.

Judge Coghlin said: "There is no doubt that, as a consequence of the personalities involved, these proceedings attracted a very considerable degree of media publicity both before and, to a certain degree, subsequent to the trial.

"In the circumstances, we are not persuaded that the learned trial judge erred in the exercise of her discretion and, accordingly, we reject this ground of appeal."

The abuse started when Aine Dahlstrom was just four years old and was committed over a six-year period between 1977 and 1983.

The opportunist predator committed the crimes when he was left alone with his daughter, often sneaking into her room while she slept.

In later years, Adams went on to work in a number of youth centres in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Mrs Dahlstrom, now in her early 40s, has waived her right to anonymity. She was not in court for the appeal hearing but gave evidence during two trials.

The panel of senior judges also consisted of Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and Lord Justice Gillen.

The case was heard at Belfast Royal Courts of Justice.

Adams consistently denied the charges during a two-week trial at Belfast Crown Court, but the jury of nine men and three women convicted him on all charges on a majority of 11 to one after four hours of deliberation.

His first trial collapsed earlier in 2013 for legal reasons.

Adams's convictions heaped pressure on Gerry Adams to explain why he did not alert the authorities to the abuse allegations when he initially learned of them.

The Sinn Fein leader, who gave evidence during the first trial, has insisted he acted properly and accused political rivals of exploiting a family issue to attack him.

Grey-haired and bespectacled Adams, who wore a brown woollen jumper, glanced towards the ground as the verdict was delivered but showed little emotion.

His wife Bronagh and daughter Claire Smith were seated in the public gallery for the brief hearing.

Adams's defence barrister Eilis McDermott QC had argued that the trial judge had not adequately dealt with the issue of burden and standard of proof.

She made a number of criticisms about the way in which the jury was directed.

Lord Justice Coghlin said: "While some of the phraseology might well have been worthy of further consideration, overall we are satisfied that the jury received effective directions relating to the burden and standard of proof and, accordingly, we reject this ground of appeal."

Other grounds of appeal included lies, inconsistencies and the date of the complaint. All were rejected.

Lord Justice Coghlin said: "The Court of Appeal should concentrate on the single and simple question 'does it think that the verdict is unsafe?'

"This exercise does not involve trying the case again. Rather it requires the court, where a conviction has followed trial and no fresh evidence has been introduced on the appeal, to examine the evidence given at the trial and to gauge the safety of the verdict against that background."

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