Former hotelier jailed for raping employee (17) after staff party appeals conviction
Brian Shaughnessy (56) was convicted of raping the part-time employee in the presidential suite of the Loughrea Hotel and Spa, which he owned at the time
A former hotelier who was jailed for raping a 17-year-old employee after a staff party and whose case was remitted back from the Supreme Court must wait to find out if his appeal against his 2013 conviction is successful.
Brian Shaughnessy appealed his conviction arguing that his defence was not properly put to the trial jury. At the Court of Appeal on Monday, the court said it would reserve judgment in the matter.
Shaughnessy (56), formerly of Ballywinna, Craughwell, Co Galway, was convicted of raping the female part-time employee in the early hours of July 26, 2010, in the presidential suite of the Loughrea Hotel and Spa, which he owned at the time.
He had denied the rape charge but was convicted by a jury in March 2013 and was sentenced to six years with one year suspended by Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan on June 10, 2013, at the Central Criminal Court.
Shaughnessy lodged an appeal, which was rejected in April 2020. Shaughnessy had claimed that his legal team did not adequately represent him at trial and that a timeline, which may contain a missing hour and 15 minutes that might have tested the credibility of the young woman's account of sexual violence, was inadequately put to her in cross-examination.
Shaughnessy had claimed these issues were mentioned as an afterthought in a defence speech to the jury, and generally glossed over.
His former legal team deny any claims of incompetence.
It had been argued at the first appeal that this was “new evidence” in that the claim was not on the transcript of the trial and it related to the manner in which his legal instructions were addressed by the previous legal team.
However, Shaughnessy then successfully applied to the Supreme Court on the matter and the case was sent back to the Court of Appeal in March of last year.
In the Supreme Court's decision sending the case back to the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Peter Charlton said it was "manifestly not possible” to decide whether or not defence counsel was actually incompetent without hearing more evidence about the instructions actually given or what the accused’s version of events were.
Shaughnessy said that he handed four "critical" documents to his defence team on the Friday before his trial, which began the following Monday.
Shaughnessy claims that the documents contained the time a key card was issued from the front desk in the hotel at 3.23am before he and the 17-year-old went "straight up" to the room with wine and two glasses.
He further claimed that there were 22 phone records also submitted to his legal team that showed a final call from the hotel for a taxi for the teenager who left at 5.41am - over two hours after the key was issued. He claims he also supplied his own phone records and the phone records of the complainant, who was sending texts from the room immediately before she left.
Hugh Hartnett SC, for Shaughnessy, had said the issue of how long the young woman was in the room was "critical" to the appeal. He said the woman told the trial that she was in the room for 30 minutes but this was not consistent if she was "nearly immediately assaulted yet stayed there for over two hours".
Mr Hartnett had said that the "two-hour" defence that Shaughnessy claims he "constantly" pressed on his legal team was not adequately represented in trial. This was the "stark, factual issue which the court must decide", counsel said.
The appellant said he raised the issue of the two hours "categorically, and in every meeting with my legal team" but claims he was told to leave the matter in the hands of the team.
Solicitor Gearoid Geraghty represented Shaughnessy at his trial. Mr Geraghty, who is 31 years practising criminal law, told Mr Hartnett that the two-hour defence was not a viable strategy during the trial and was something raised by Shaughnessy afterwards.
Mr Geraghty told Mr Hartnett that because Shaughnessy told gardaí he was in the room for 45 minutes, the two-hour strategy would put his first statement in doubt.
Mr Geraghty said that had been raised in initial consultation but was not pressed by Shaughnessy.
At the Court of Appeal today, State counsel Paul Greene SC told the judges that there was a "difference between having a conversation and being legally instructed to do something".
He said what was at issue was the safety of the conviction and said the evidential hurdle had not been crossed by the appellant.
Mr Greene said that Shaughnessy's potential reconstruction of his memories did not establish any incompetence by his legal team.
Mr Greene reminded the court that the complainant had been cross-examined at the trial and had been dealt with competently at that stage.
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