Jurors told they must put aside any feelings they may have about accused's nationality or Islamic faith

Jurors told they must put aside any feelings they may have about accused's nationality or Islamic faith

Jurors in the trial of a man accused of raping a woman with Down syndrome has been told they must put aside any feelings they may have about the man's nationality or his Islamic faith.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt was addressing the jury of six men and six women ahead of sending it out to begin deliberations today. It was day 19 of the trial at the Central Criminal Court.

It is the prosecution case that the 34-year old accused stopped the woman in the street and took her back to his home where he raped her. The trial has heard from 16 female witnesses who said they were propositioned by the accused in the area around the time of the alleged rape.

The accused, who is originally from Pakistan, has pleaded not guilty to rape, sexual assault and having sex with a mentally impaired person at his Dublin home on June 12, 2013.

He admits there was some sexual contact with the woman but maintains that it was consensual and that he didn't know she was mentally impaired. He said that he never heard of Down syndrome until his arrest

He told the court that in his country people with mental disabilities were kept at home or in hospitals and that they wore name badges to indicate they were disabled.

In his closing address Mr Justice Hunt told jurors that there were a number of “difficult and thorny” issues in the case relating to intellectual disability on one side and race, nationality and disability on the other.

He said jurors must approach the issues without prejudice or sympathy. He said they may feel sympathy for the alleged victim but that they must put this aside and judge her disabilities in a neutral way.

He said the jury must also put aside any “topical views” they had about Islam. “Positive or negative views of people from Pakistan or people of the Muslim faith are neither here nor there.”

The judge added that “soapbox” opinions about disability, race or Islam had no place in the jury's deliberations.

“People from all over world make a valuable contribution to this society,” Mr Justice Hunt said. “It's a very different society to the society I grew up in and in my opinion a very much better one. (The accused) is entitled to the same consideration as if I was sitting there and I come from just up the road.”

It is not the jury's job to decide on the morals or conduct of the accused, the judge said. “You are not here to judge on dubious conduct. Acquitting (the accused) is not giving him a gold star or ten out of ten for his behaviour.”

Mr Justice Hunt instructed the jurors that they should consider the charge of rape first and that he would allow them to also consider an alternative charge of attempted rape if the main charge was not proven.

He will continue his address tomorrow before sending the jury away to being deliberations.