Monday 15 July 2019

Man (59) charged with abusing sisters

Prosecutors have asked the Court of Appeal to overturn a ruling prohibiting the trial of a man for allegedly abusing his two sisters thirty to forty years ago.

The 59-year-old man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had been charged with 17 counts of raping and sexually abusing his two sisters on dates between 1974 and 1985.

He maintains that he was not, in fact, resident in the family home during the relevant period, but that he lived with his grandparents and then another relative, all of whom are now deceased.

There was only one charge in respect of which a specific date was identified and neither complainant was apparently aware that the other sister was being abused at the time. Neither, therefore, would be capable of providing corroboration of the other's evidence.

He successfully sought to prohibit his trial on grounds of delay, claiming he was specifically prejudiced due to the death of a number of potential witnesses. He also claimed he would not receive a fair trial due to adverse publicity from an earlier conviction for serious sexual offending.

In a judgment delivered earlier this year, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said the deaths of a number of individuals had the effect of denying the man an opportunity to advance particular lines of defence.

A number of surviving witnesses were elderly, and a number of them had indicated to An Garda Síochána that they have no clear recollection of events, the judge added.

Mr Justice Simmons said a trial of this type would ultimately reduce itself "to a form of swearing match" between the man and the two complainants and the risk of an unfair trial could not be avoided by the giving of specific warnings to a jury.

The Director of Public Prosecutions moved to appeal the High Court's order prohibiting the man's trial last week.

Counsel for the DPP, Eilis Brennan SC, said all of the witnesses referred to by the judge were "peripheral" and had no specific evidence to give on guilt or innocence. She said the man's parent's were both still alive.

Mr Justice John Edwards, who sat with Ms Justice Máire Whelan and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the court would reserve its judgment.

Ms Brennan said the "catalyst" for the women coming forward to make their complaints was a "threatening letter" the man is alleged to have sent to them while serving a sentence in prison.

Drogheda Independent