Thursday 14 December 2017

Retired priest awarded legal costs after indecent assault conviction is quashed

Tadhg O Dalaigh
Tadhg O Dalaigh

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A retired priest whose conviction for indecently assaulting a schoolboy in the 1970s was quashed has been awarded legal costs for his successful appeal.

The Catholic Church had funded Tadhg O'Dalaigh's legal representation, according to lawyers for the Director of Public Prosecutions, who had opposed the costs application on grounds that he was "not out of pocket himself".

Last week, The 73-year-old, of Woodview, Mount Merrion Avenue, Blackrock, successfully appealed his conviction for indecently assaulting a schoolboy at Colaiste Chroi Naofa boarding school in Carrignavar, Co Cork in the 1970s.

O'Dalaigh had been found guilty by a jury and was sentenced to five years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Donagh McDonagh on December 18, 2014 for the offence, a sentence which he had served by the time his appeal was determined.

The single incident allegedly took place at night time when the complainant awoke to find himself being masturbated.

The Court of Appeal quashed O'Dalaigh's conviction over the trial judge's decision not to warn the jury about the dangers of convicting in the absence of corroboration and on Friday last, the three-judge court refused an application by the DPP for a retrial.

The three-judge court felt it would not be in the interests of justice to order the retrial of someone who had served their sentence in full. The antiquity of the case and O'Dalaigh's age were also factors in the court's decision.

Counsel for O'Dalaigh, Patrick Gageby SC, accordingly applied for legal costs for the appeal.

However, counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Garrett McCormack BL, opposed the application adding that O'Dalaigh's “legal representation was funded by the Catholic Church”.

In circumstances where O'Dalaigh was “not out of pocket himself” for the appeal, Mr McCormack asked the court to refuse the application to award O'Dalaigh legal costs.

Mr Gageby said it wasn't a consideration that had ever been canvassed on the question of legal costs. He said it was not in the gift of the prosecution to speculate as to the source or origin of these matters. “Those are private matters in my submission,” he said.

Ruling on the costs application today, Mr Justice Alan Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court believed it appropriate to award O'Dalaigh his costs.

Although not acquitted by the jury, O'Dalaigh now stood “no less innocent than if he had been”.

The decision to quash the jury verdict was rendered necessary by the trial judge's decision not to give a corroboration warning, which had been sought by O'Dalaigh's lawyers and opposed by the prosecution at trial.

There can therefore be no blame or responsibility attributed to O'Dalaigh for what occurred, Mr Justice Mahon said.

No application was made to recover the costs of the Circuit Court trial and O'Dalaigh had “not benefited from State funded legal aid,” the judge said.

During his trial at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, the jury were told that O'Dalaigh had pleaded guilty in 1999 and again in 2014 to indecently assaulting a number of pupils at the same school. These convictions had been reported in the press and O'Dalagh had been named.

He had acknowledged that he had indecently assaulted other boys at the school but adamantly denied assaulting the complainant.

It had been pointed out that other priests had themselves been involved in the sexual abuse of pupils at the school. In effect, O'Dalaigh maintained that if the complainant had been abused as alleged, the abuser was another staff member.

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