Tuesday 20 August 2019

Rape trial collapses after complainant leaves the country half-way through her evidence

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Declan Brennan

The rape trial of a Dublin man has collapsed after the complainant left on a ferry to England half way through her cross-examination.

In directing the jury at the Central Criminal Court to acquit the accused, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart noted a High Court judicial review had found inexcusable and blameworthy delays in prosecuting the case.

The man, who cannot be identified, was aged 15 when it was alleged he raped his then girlfriend at a park near his home in August 2014. He was aged 18 when charged before a District Court in January 2017.

He had pleaded not guilty to rape and before his trial began this week, his lawyers had brought Judicial Review proceedings seeking to restrain the prosecution on the basis of delays which meant he was now before the Central Criminal Court as an adult rather than as a child.

In a ruling, made in May 2018, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said the delays in prosecuting the case were inexcusable, unreasonable and unsatisfactorily explained.

“They amounted to blameworthy prosecutorial delay in the case of a child,” he said.

He said the case of an alleged serious sexual offence committed by one minor upon another had obvious sensitivities, adding “this is the type of case that should have attracted a very high priority.”

Mr Justice McDermott allowed the case to proceed after concluding that the delays were not sufficient to outweigh the public interest in allowing the charge to proceed to trial.

At the Central Criminal Court this morning, Michael Bowman SC, defending, told Ms Justice Stewart that the High Court had found there was no sense of urgency or priority given to the case.

He made his comments as part of a defence application to the court to direct the jury to return a verdict of not guilty on foot of the young woman's absence.

The court heard that she had a troubled background and that, given her “prior history”, everyone was concerned when she could not be contacted. She left on a ferry on Tuesday evening and was not answering her phone.

An investigating garda examined CCTV footage from the ferry port and was able to identify her at the ferry terminal. Mr Bowman thanked the garda for his efforts to establish that she was healthy, given the concerns around her.

John O'Kelly SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), told the court he was not instructed to oppose the defence application. Ms Justice Stewart noted the woman had been uncontactable since Tuesday and that the only fair outcome at this point was to direct the jury of five men and seven women to acquit the man.

The judge said that should the complainant get back in touch with authorities, she wished to convey her best wishes to her, adding “hopefully she can make a new life for herself.”

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