A man wept with relief after a Circuit Court jury found him not guilty on 23 charges alleging sexual assaults of a teenaged boy.
The verdict was returned more than five years after the allegations first surfaced and after a trial that took up four days of court time.
The jury of eight women and four men were shown a video of the boy at the centre of the case being interviewed by gardaí at the age of 15.
But by the time he was cross-examined by defence counsel during the trial, the complainant’s appearance had changed markedly and he was an adult.
The defendant, aged in his sixties and described as a friend of the family, took the boy into his home on days when he attended sports training.
The youth stated that, while staying there, he had been sexually assaulted and the abuse continued over a five month period.
He said that he had fingers inserted in his anus. He also complained that he had been plied with alcohol and ‘weed’, adding that he was sometimes given money by his host.
The matter was investigated by New Ross gardaí after the complainant arrived at the station with his mother early in 2017.
The first witness was Garda Bob Byrne who set the scene by providing the jury with photos of the accused’s accommodation.
Among the pictures was one showing a pull-out bed which had been bought for the young visitor to use whenever he stayed the night.
The trial was then shown the 45 minute long video of the interview conducted by specialist officers in Waterford.
‘I was sexually abused,’ stated the then 15-year-old, who recalled that the abuse started with the defendant pulling off his pants and sexually assaulted him orally.
He said that the assaults stopped after an incident in which he fell asleep having been given drugs and alcohol, waking up to find dried blood on his leg.
The interviewee suggested that DVD’s in the house could have contained pornography.
Cross-examination by barrister Paddy McCarthy was conducted live over a video link to another room in the court complex.
The now adult complainant told how he had been bullied at school and, for much of the time covered by his allegations, he did not attend lessons at all.
The defendant offered to allow him stay at his home on days when the youth was at training and his mother agreed to this arrangement.
On day two of the trial, the mother was sworn in to tell how the issue came to a head.
She recalled that her son’s mood had changed and he began to be aggressive with her.
At first she thought this was normal teenage behaviour but then he told her early in 2017 that the defendant ‘was at him’.
She told how she was gobsmacked, given that the man had been a family friend for so long.
He had come out to her some time before as gay, she revealed, adding that this did not bother her.
Around the time of the alleged assaults, he used to pick her son up from training and he had bought the pull-out bed to allow him stay any time he wanted.
As far as the witness was concerned, the man now facing prosecution had been a role model.
The trial heard how a search warrant was obtained so that gardaí could look for any cannabis, computers, phones or pornographic material.
They were also seeking trace evidence of blood or semen.
Mr McCarthy repeatedly stressed to the jury that no such evidence was found and there were no drugs seized either.
Two DVD’s confiscated in the course of the investigation turned out to be John Wayne movies ‘Green Berets’ and ‘The Searchers’.
Counsel stressed that no cigarettes or alcohol were seized under the warrant.
However, a couple of phones were taken for specialist Garda Janet Walsh to examine.
She told the trial how both phones had limited memory capacity.
The first was an old Nokia which yielded no evidence.
The second was a Samsung with no SIM card which contained five texts all dating back to 2014.
When interviewed about the allegations made against him, the defendant told gardaí he was baffled.
He added that he had never seen his accuser naked though he said he thought he had shared his bed with the teenager on one occasion before acquiring the pull-out.
It was also accepted that he had given his young guest a ‘couple of mouthfuls of Heineken’ letting him have a taste of the beer and that he often gave him ‘a couple of euros’.
When details of the sex acts alleged were put to him by the interviewing garda, his response was that they never happened.
Doctor Elizabeth Walsh of the community child centre in Waterford, since retired, was called into the witness box.
She told how she used to examine children who were suspected of having been abused.
She found the complainant generally healthy, with no scars or marks other than bruises associated with sport.
However, she pointed out that her observations were made weeks after contact with the defendant had ceased.
The jury was sent out to deliberate shortly before 11 a.m. on the fourth day of the trial.
They proved unable to reach a unanimous verdict but after 4 p.m. they came back into the courtroom to confirm that at least ten members were agreed.
On each of the 23 counts they found the man not guilty.
‘He may now exit the court an innocent man,’ declared Judge James McCourt.
The emotional defendant shook hands with his barrister and hugged a member of his legal team before leaving with his brother.