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High Court clears way for trial of man accused of sexually abusing relative over 50 years ago to proceed

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had sought to halt his prosecution from proceeding.

Image: Graham Hughes via RollingNews.ie

THE HIGH COURT has cleared the way for the trial of a man accused of sexually abusing a female relative more than 50 years ago to proceed.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had sought to halt his prosecution from proceeding on grounds including that due to the lapse of time and loss of material evidence there was a real and serious risk he will not get a fair trial.

He is charged with over a dozen counts of indecently assaulting a female when she was just eight years old during the early 1960s, which he denies.

The DPP had opposed his application.

In her judgement, Justice Deirdre Murphy said she was refusing the man’s application, and that his trial before the Circuit Criminal Court should proceed.

The court was of the view that the arguments advanced by the man, who is in his late 70s, did not establish the exceptional circumstances which would warrant the prohibition of his trial.

The judge said that the court was not finding that the accused man was not prejudiced in the conduct of his defence, but was merely following the line with current decisions of the courts that the issue of prejudice is a matter for the judge hearing the trial.

In her decision, the judge noted that the complainant has alleged that she was indecently assaulted by the man at her family home when he visited with his mother.

The complainant first made a statement to the gardaí in 2016. The man in his statement to the gardaí in 2017 denies the allegations and says that he did not attend at the complainant’s home at the times of the alleged offences.

He also said that he was working overseas at the relevant time. The man who has a number of medical conditions also said he was prejudiced by the long delays.

He also argued that he was prejudiced by the deaths of witnesses including his mother and sister who could have confirmed this. In addition, due to the passage of time he says is unable to obtain documentary evidence to support his assertions.

The judge said that it could be argued that the issue of delay in prosecutions had received more judicial scrutiny in the past quarter-century than any other single legal point, particularly as the awareness of the extent of child abuse in Ireland grew.

In many of these cases the complaints centred around events that happened decades earlier, the judge said.

However, the judge said that the Supreme Court had made it clear that until the government imposes a statute of limitation on sexual offences, “delay per se is not a bar to prosecution”.

The law had evolved to a point that the court of trial is the forum where prejudice caused by delay is to be tested. That court has all the tools necessary to test the significance of disputed or lost of missing evidence, the judge added.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

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Aodhan O Faolain

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