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Man convicted of sexually abusing six daughters of former partner loses appeal

CourtsBy Sunday World
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

A Dublin man jailed for five years for sexually abusing six daughters of his former partner while he lived in their family home has lost an appeal against conviction.

The 54-year-old man, who cannot be identified to protect the victims' identities, pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 60 counts of sexual assault between 1994 and 2005.

He was found guilty by a jury on all counts and sentenced to seven years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Desmond Hogan on May 31 2013.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the man's appeal against conviction today finding that although the trial judge had erred, the error rebounded in his favour.

Delivering judgment on behalf of the three-judge court today, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the six sisters alleged the man had sexually abused them when he lived in their family home as their mother's partner.

According to their mother's evidence the sexual relationship between herself and the man had ended after the first couple of years together, in or around 1996, the judgment stated.

Each sister gave evidence that the abuse had occured a couple of times a week and over a prolonged number of years.

Each described the abuse as frequent, sometimes daily, touching of the breasts and vagina in addition to forced masturbation, simulated and oral sex in respect of most complainants.

Five of the sisters gave evidence that upon their return from school each day, the man would knock on the floor of his bedroom demanding a cup of coffee and the abuse would commence when one of the sisters went up to his room with a cup of coffee.

Four of the sisters stated that he wore a studded belt, ring and an attached chain on his penis.

The same number gave evidence that he forced them to watch pornographic films in his company.

Four sisters gave evidence that the man gave them yoghurts, sweets or money to them after the abuse occured.

The first complainant gave evidence that she and her other sister had withdrawn previous complaints made in 2003 under threat of being thrown out of the family home. “They had nowhere else to go,” the judgment stated.

His primary ground of appeal, submitted by his barrister Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, was that the trial judge failed to give a distinct corroboration warning and had failed to indicate where in the evidence corroboration might be found.

As a result the jury did not receive effective guidance on this issue and the verdict was rendered unsafe, Mr Ó Lideadha had submitted.

It was accepted that the trial judge had "incorrectly stated on two occasions" that "there was no corroboration" in the case. However there was considerable evidence capable of corroboration, the judgment stated.

The two areas where corroboration might have been found by the jury related to the sexual apparatus worn by the man during some sexual assaults as well as the evidence given relating to requests for coffee, the judgment stated.

The Court of Appeal held that while the trial judge's corroboration warning was not adequately contextualised and had failed to indicate where corroboration might be found, “the overall effect of what was said in relation to corroboration” rebounded to his benefit

“It would be unjust to overturn the conviction on the basis of a defect or defects in the charge which operated in his favour” and “especially” when he made no complaint of the inadequacies at the time, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan and Mr Justice George Birmingham, dismissed the appeal against conviction.

The DPP's application for a review of sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient” will be heard on May 19 next.

By Ruaidhrí Giblin