Men convicted of historic sex abuse mist await appeal outcome

Francis McLoughlin (Pic: Sligo Champion)
Francis McLoughlin (Pic: Sligo Champion)

Two men found guilty of sexual abuse committed more than forty years ago, must wait to hear the outcome of their appeals against conviction.

Francis McLoughlin (66), of Mahanagh, Cloonloo, Co Sligo, was found guilty by a jury of indecently assaulting two young boys in a period from 1963 to 1974 when the victims were aged between six to 17 and five to 12 years old.

His co-accused, Brian Wynne otherwise Bernard (59) of Derrynacarn, Cloonloo, Co Sligo, had pleaded not guilty to indecently assaulting one of the boys in a two year period ending in January 1973. He was found guilty on five counts by the jury at Sligo Circuit Criminal Court.

McLoughlin was sentenced to four years imprisonment with the final six months suspended while Wynne was given a wholly suspended two year sentence by Judge Petria McDonnell on October 13, 2014.

Opening an appeal against conviction today, McLoughlin's barrister, John Shortt SC, said his client's conviction was unsafe and unsatisfactory because there had been an “accumulation” of trial mismanagement beginning with a refusal to order separate trials.

Mr Short said his client was manifestly prejudiced because he had to face “three trials” - in relation to the two complainants as well as complaints where the co-accused “were together”.

Mr Short said his client should not have been tried with Wynne because it allowed the “shoring up” of “system evidence” which, Mr Short said, “we say there wasn't”.

He said the trial judge made an “erroneous finding” as to what constituted system evidence and inadequately dealt with corroboration.

Counsel for Wynne, Delia Marie Flynn SC, said she was appealing on grounds of delay, the "system evidence", corroboration and the issue of separate trials.

In a case where the only defence open to her client was “bare denials” and where he had given evidence in his defence, it was significant, Ms Flynn said, that on two occasions the trial judge referred to the “difficulty of disproving” the allegations.

It was “almost inverting the burden of proof,” she said.

Ms Flynn said there “couldn't possibly” have been system evidence. There was only one complainant in her client's case.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Eileen O'Leary SC, said the system of abuse employed by McLoughlin was “dramatically unusual”.

That system was used subsequently on the second victim when Wynne was present, she said.

The system had been set up by McLoughlin, was witnessed and “deployed by Wynne” and he was now part of the system evidence, she said.

Ms O'Leary said corroboration was properly and adequately dealt with by the trial judge. She explained what corroboration was, defined in law what was meant by corroboration and gave a warning.

Counsel submitted that warnings to 'exercise special care' and 'just be careful' were adequate given the circumstances of this case.

She said the trial judge adequately dealt with delay.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said the court would reserve judgment.