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Evidence of Patrick Nevin's Tinder use allowed in rape case because of 'similar modus operandi'

Previous convictions of a defendant are usually not heard by a jury.

Patrick Nevin.
Patrick Nevin.
Image: Collins Courts

THE SIMILARITY OF alleged attacks against three separate victims allowed a High Court judge in the trial of convicted sex offender Patrick Nevin to rule that the jury could hear the evidence of those allegations.

Patrick Nevin (36), had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape of one woman at a location in Bellewstown, Co Meath on July 12, 2014 and was facing a three-week trial.

Nevin was due to stand trial this week for the Bellewstown attack but after a legal ruling yesterday which allowed the prosecution to introduce evidence of the other allegations, he changed his plea to guilty.

Before that trial began Alex Owens SC, prosecuting, applied to the court to allow “conduct evidence” to be heard by the jury.

This is evidence of similar behaviour, in this case Nevin’s use of Tinder to approach two other women and then driving them to a secluded location to attack them.

There are rules against a jury hearing any evidence of previous convictions of a defendant but the court heard that there is jurisdiction to allow previous behaviour evidence where it is probative, namely that it may demonstrate or prove the charges.

The court heard that case law states the probative value may depend in part on the similarity of allegations as well as the unlikelihood that the same person would find himself falsely accused on various occasions by different and independent individuals.

“The making of multiple accusations is a coincidence in itself, which has to be taken into account in deciding admissibility,” the court heard.

Owens said that similar fact evidence cannot be introduced simply to show a propensity of the defendant to crime or a record of previous “bad character”.

The court was also asked to consider the issue of collusion and heard that a logical defence against multiple allegations is that they “arise by virtue of some deliberate collusion, accidental contamination or some form of ‘copy-cat’ complaint”.

Owens told the court system evidence is admissible because of the: “inherent improbability of several persons making up similar stories and it shows a practice which would rebut accident, innocent explanation or denial.”

Patrick McGrath SC, defending, submitted that the application was very unusual and should be treated with extreme caution by the court.

Modus operandi 

Justice Creedon noted the inherent improbability that three people made a complaint against the same man in eleven days.

She said that because of the similar modus operandi demonstrated by the defendant, the evidence from the other complainants was probative and did more than simply show criminal propensity.

In a separate ruling, Justice Creedon ruled against a defence application to have court reports about Nevin’s previous trials and convictions removed from the internet for the duration of the trial.

The defence had already written to the DPP which then wrote to a number of media outlets asking them to remove certain articles about Nevin.

A number of these organisations took down articles but lawyers for RTE and the Irish Times challenged the defence application in court.

In her ruling, Justice Creedon said the main test for the court was whether there is be a real risk of an unfair trial and that the damage done by not imposing reporting restrictions would not be capable of being remedied by the trial judge directing the jury appropriately.

Justice Creedon said in this case she was not satisfied this risk was present.

She noted Justice Patrick McCarthy’s recent comments in the High Court that juries should be trusted and that courts must accept the fact that there may be material relevant to a defendant online during a trial.

Nevin will be sentenced on 26 July.

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Declan Brennan

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