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Leah Farrell

Midlands rape trial: Garda denies 'ballyragging' suspect during questioning

Counsel for one of the accused put it to the garda that 16 minutes passed in an interview room before a recording device was switched on.

A GARDA WITNESS has denied that garda investigators were “ballyragging” a suspect who was being held for questioning over an alleged rape of a teenage girl by five men.

Four of the men are on trial at the Central Criminal Court and have pleaded not guilty to raping the then 17-year-old girl on the night of 27 December 2016. A fifth man is not before the court.

It is the prosecution case that the 17-year-old girl got into a car with the men in the early hours of the morning and was driven to a location in the midlands where five men raped her “one after another”.

The four defendants also face additional charges of sexual assaulting the woman while three of the defendants are also charged with false imprisonment of the girl. The men are now aged between 22 and 24 and cannot be identified under the 1981 Rape Act. They deny all the charges.

The jury has heard details of six garda interviews of the fourth accused man over the course of two days in March 2017.

Under cross-examination from the man’s defence counsel, Hugh Harnett SC, it was put to the investigating garda involved in the interviews that before the sixth interview, 16 minutes elapsed in an interview room before a recording device was switched on.

Harnett has said that in the interview that followed, his client “out of the blue” admitted to a sexual act having persistently denied it in the previous interviews.

Later in this interview, gardaí asked the defendant why he had lied earlier about “getting a handjob” and the man said “I honestly couldn’t remember”.

Asked what changed since, the accused told gardaí: “Like being told everyone is saying I did get it.”

He later added, “I was pretty sure I didn’t get a handjob off her, then everyone was saying…”

Harnett put it to the garda that his client was interrupted while giving this final response and the interview terminated. The garda witness agreed.

Counsel said that his client’s answer suggested that he was being told things to say and that he should have been allowed finished. The garda said: “He wasn’t being told what to say.”

Harnett put it to the garda that the admission came as a result of gardaí “ballyragging” his client during the 16 minutes in the interview room when the cameras were off.

Harnett said his client’s instructions are that during this time the investigating gardai told him that “If you don’t admit what we want you to say we will both walk out of this interview room” and told him, “You’re fucked if we leave”.

The garda witness denied this conversation took place. He denied a suggestion that he and his colleague were in the defendant’s face and “and pointing fingers in his face”.

He denied that he visited the defendant in the custody cell and read out the woman’s statement and told him: “You clearly know what happened and you are not telling us the truth.”

Harnett put it to him that he went to the accused in his cell and told him, “You’re fucking lying”. The garda denied this.

He said he had no memory of the defendant telling him, somewhat embarrassingly, that he had a difficulty with his penis. Harnett put it to him that this was said and gardaí asked his client if he had a medical certificate for the ailment and when he said he didn’t gardaí told him: “That’s bullshit, don’t mention it again.”

The garda witness denied this. Another garda who took part in the interviews said that it was normal that a suspect would have his account of events challenged repeatedly.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Tara Burns and a jury.