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Monday 20 November 2017

Revealed: full details of Norris mercy plea

He remains 'absolutely committed to staying in the Presidential race'

John Drennan and JODY CORCORAN EXCLUSIVE

THE Sunday Independent today publishes a letter which was written 14 years ago by Senator David Norris to the judges of the High Court of Israel in which he pleaded for "mercy" for his then 45-year-old former lover who had been convicted of the statutory rape of a 15-year-old male.

The letter, which was give to the Sunday Independent by Senator Norris on Friday, is written on Seanad Eireann notepaper. In the letter, Senator Norris, then 53, stated he himself had been mentioned at the time, 1997, as a possible candidate to be President of Ireland.

Yesterday, Senator Norris admitted that this latest controversy would cause "serious trouble" to his campaign to win the Presidency this year, but he said he remained "absolutely committed" to winning a nomination to contest the election.

During the course of his lengthy and detailed "humble plea", Senator Norris pleaded for a "non-custodial sentence" for Ezra Yizhak, a "close and personal friend", whom he had first met in December 1975. Their relationship lasted to 1985. They remain close friends.

Among other mitigating factors, he stated in his letter that Mr Yizhak, who had "unwisely pleaded guilty", had been the victim of a "violent and abusive father".

However, Senator Norris also questioned the nature of the "original intervention" by the police.

He wrote: "The arrest took place in a curious and troubling manner. The circumstances are deeply worrying. Mr Yizhak was lured into a carefully prepared trap."

He also raised questions about the way in which the original trial was conducted and then set out a number of "facts", which, he said, would be "mitigating" in relation to sentencing under Irish law.

Senator Norris, who attended the original trial, stated as "factually incorrect" the "constant insistence" of the presiding judge that there was "absolutely no difference" between the case against Mr Yizhak and a similar case involving heterosexuals.

"I would be more than happy to give the court the benefit of my expert knowledge on this and other matters," he wrote.

He also made the judges aware of "certain anomalies" in the original trial in which the judge, in passing sentence, introduced material which had not been subject to challenge by lawyers for Mr Yizhak.

"I refer specifically to her expressed concern about the impact upon the victim, although no victim impact assessment was before the court nor was there any evidence to this effect," he said.

Among the "important mitigating facts" under Irish and English law, Senator Norris said that "consent" may have been relevant to sentence even in a case where one or both parties involved were under the age of legal consent at the time. The age of consent in Israel is 16.

Citing the law in Ireland and England, Senator Norris wrote: "In the people (Attorney General) vss Kearns, the accused, having pleaded guilty to unlawful carnal knowledge of a girl under the age of 15 years, sought to adduce evidence, as part of his mitigation plea that her appearance led him to believe that she was over 17 years."

In the letter, dated August 29, 1997, Senator Norris described his former lover as an "intelligent, honest, trustworthy, good and moral person" for whom the "present difficulty" was "quite uncharacteristic".

He said that should the court find it possible to "show mercy" that he would be "more than happy" to act as a personal guarantor for the "continued good behaviour" of Mr Yizhak and to "guarantee absolutely" that there would be no reoffence.

It could not be definitively established yesterday what sentence was imposed on Mr Yizhak.

Yesterday, as his campaign seemed set to implode with the resignation of four key officials, Mr Norris told the Sunday Independent he was "absolutely committed to remaining in the presidential race". He added: "I am a pretty odd person", and said that he had not felt as "happy or as free" in the past year.

On Friday, however, during the course of an exclusive interview in relation to these latest revelations, which look set to end his bid for the presidency, Senator Norris admitted he was "in serious trouble" and that his chances of securing a nomination were now "slim".

In his letter to the judges of the high court, sitting in Jerusalem, Senator Norris said he had known Mr Yizhak for the last 23 years.

He added: "I could cite many instances of his practical goodness as a human being. In particular I am personally aware of the sacrifices he made in caring for two friends who died from Aids."

Senator Norris described himself as a "serious and respected" person both within his own community and to some extent at least internationally.

He wrote: "I was elected to my parliamentary position 10 years ago for the first time and have been re-elected on several occasions since... [I] have been widely mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections for the Presidency of Ireland."

As the founder of the most extensively used counselling service for gay people in Ireland, he said he had "long experience" of dealing with the "emotional and legal difficulties" experienced by gay people.

Senator Norris also stated in the letter that he was a "strong supporter" of Israel.

Sunday Independent

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