Friday 20 July 2018

Shane Phelan: Delays in Humphries sex trial compounded the misery for young victim

Former ‘Irish Times’ writer Tom Humphries outside court. Picture: PA
Former ‘Irish Times’ writer Tom Humphries outside court. Picture: PA
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

One of the many troubling aspects of the Tom Humphries case is the length of time it took to reach this stage.

He is due to be sentenced on October 24, some six and a half years after gardaí were initially made aware of his activities.

The case highlights the immense difficulties faced by victims of serious crime when the wheels of justice turn slowly. Delays in this case compounded the misery and distress felt by Humphries' victim.

In her harrowing victim impact statement, the young woman he abused and exploited when she was aged between 14 and 16 referred to how the case "dragged out over several years".

In that time, she lost out on exams, trips, holidays and experiences with family and friends. She had to take time off from school, college and work to attend multiple court hearings. To her immense credit, she has shown great strength to stick with the process and was in court on Tuesday to hear the evidence against the former 'Irish Times' sports writer being outlined for the first time.

There are a number of reasons why Humphries' trial was delayed.

Firstly, after being confronted by his family about his activities in March 2011, he was admitted to a hospital amid fears he would self-harm. While he was there investigators managed to piece together what he had been doing. This involved the painstaking retrieval and analysis of messages and data stored on at least three mobile phones.

Cell site analysis was carried out to corroborate statements taken from the victim detailing when and where she met Humphries.

Similar investigative work was carried out in the case of a second girl. That case did not proceed.

It would be September 25, 2012, before gardaí got to interview him.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that nothing of material assistance emerged from that interview. Humphries first appeared in court on various charges in February 2014.

Two months later, he was served with a book of evidence and sent forward for trial at the circuit court.

However, trial dates in 2015 and 2016 had to be vacated. There was a further adjournment in January 2017.

Such is the busyness of our criminal courts, once a case loses its place on the list it can be many months before a new date can be found.

There was an element of bad luck in all this.

On one occasion, the case could not proceed because a key State witness died.

Another date did not suit as it coincided with the victim's college exams.

Humphries subsequently pleaded guilty to six charges last March.

Much of the delay could have been avoided if he had indicated at an earlier stage he wished to be arraigned.

Irish Independent

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