Sunday 18 February 2018

Man who raped his own mum on Mother's Day loses Supreme Court appeal

Noeline Blackwell of DRCC. Photo:
Noeline Blackwell of DRCC. Photo:

Tim Healy and Shane Phelan

The Supreme Court has dismissed a man's appeal against his conviction for raping his mother on Mother's Day.

In a significant ruling, the court provided guidance for judges in explaining to juries the law on rape, particularly in cases where the accused mounts a defence based on a mistaken belief there was consent to sex.

Mr Justice Peter Charleton, on behalf of the seven-judge court, said under the law an accused man must honestly believe that the woman was actually consenting, not merely that she "might" be.

The ruling was welcomed by Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) chief executive Noeline Blackwell as a clear statement that lack of consent is equal to rape.

However, she said it also showed that laws on consent needed to be strengthened.

The case involved a man who claimed he genuinely believed his mother, aged in her 60s and with mobility problems, consented to sex. She was adamant she had not and her son was convicted by a jury in 2012 and jailed for 12-and-a-half years.

The rape happened in 2008 after he called to her home. She was in bed having earlier been out for a Mother's Day meal.

She got up, both consumed some "strong drink", and started listening to a Joe Dolan CD and dancing. The victim said it was ballroom dancing, while her son said it was "erotic" dancing.

She was on some medication and told the jury she ended up on the floor with her son on top of her, raping her.

The woman said it was not consensual and she had repeatedly told him to leave her alone.

Mr Justice Charleton said the crime of rape is "a terrible violation of a woman's physical and mental integrity".

He said the original trial judge, Mr Justice Barry White, now retired, misstated the law by a mistaken reference that a belief by the accused that a woman "might be consenting" rendered non-consensual sex somehow not a crime.

"This was perhaps a slip of the tongue, but an unfortunate one against victims of crime," Mr Justice Charleton said.

"A woman has a constitutional right to her bodily integrity. As a matter of law, there must be a lack of consent by the woman and for sexual intercourse to nonetheless be excused in those circumstances, the accused must honestly believe the woman was actually consenting, not merely that she might be."

He found the trial judge's error had been in favour of the defence and no error against the accused had been identified.

Irish Independent

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