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Reserved judgment on whether trial of man on historic sexual abuse allegations should be stopped from proceeding

Reserved judgment on whether trial of man on historic sexual abuse allegations should be stopped from proceeding

The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment on whether the trial of man on historic sexual abuse allegations should be stopped from proceeding.

The case concerns a man who worked on a voluntary basis in a children's home run by a religious order in Dublin from 1974 onwards. A number of complainants came forward making complaints of sexual abuse including rape. His identity cannot be published at present.

On the eve of his trial in October, 2013, an indictment was furnished with amended dates.

In relation to the first complainant, offences originally alleged to have occurred between 1968 and 1974 were now charged as having occurred between 1974 and 1975. In relation to the second complainant, offences originally alleged to have occurred between 1974 and 1977 were now charged as occurring in 1977 and in relation to the third complainant there was no change in dates.

After the jury was sworn but before the man was put in the charge of the jury, his barrister, Caroline Biggs SC, applied for a number of rulings from the trial judge.

Ms Biggs sought a direction that the trial be stopped, or that an indictment be put forward which reflected the complainants' statements or that the complainants' evidence as reflected in their statements be ruled inadmissible.

Ms Biggs submitted that there was no basis for the Director of Public Prosecutions to have charged offences on radically different dates to those set out in the complainants' statements.

The trial judge refused Ms Biggs' applications and indicated that prohibition could be sought.

In a High Court judgment delivered in February, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys refused leave to seek prohibition and the matter came before the Court of Appeal today.

Ms Biggs told the three-judge court today that the High Court used the wrong test in reaching its conclusion and did not engage with the concept of arguability “at all”.

What the complainants say in their statement of evidence “cannot be true”, according to Ms Biggs. Furthermore, having established that the original dates were incorrect, by reference to his not having worked in the institution until 1974, this defence had now been “whipped away from us wholesale”.  

She recalled the trial judge's remarks that “in attempting to do justice to the complainant, an injustice has been done to the accused”.

Reserving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court hoped to deliver its decision on Thursday.