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appeals court

Sex offender fails in bid to overturn conviction for raping partner’s seven-year-old son

The man argued that his trial was unfair because the victim was given incorrect information.

A CONVICTED CHILD SEX offender has failed in a bid to overturn his conviction for raping his partner’s seven-year-old son in the shower.

The man argued that his trial was unfair because the victim was given incorrect information that his attacker had been jailed for raping a girl.

Lawyers for the appellant argued before the Court of Appeal that the trial judge had erred in refusing an application for a directed acquittal because this “erroneous information” had posed a real and serious risk of influencing the initial complaint of the child and his subsequent interview.

However, the Court of Appeal found today that whether or not the child held incorrect information about the man was not an issue which would impact the fairness of the trial, justifying its cessation.

Justice Isobel Kennedy, sitting with Justice John Edwards and Justice Patrick McCarthy, said that a trial judge retains an inherent jurisdiction to protect the fairness of a trial and if the circumstances require, to stop a trial.

However, the three-judge panel found that “something exceptional” was required for a judge to stop a trial and that this case had fallen “far short” of that.

Dismissing the appeal today, the three judges found that the trial judge had carefully considered the defence application and “quite properly” exercised her discretion to refuse it.

The 49-year-old man, who can’t be named to protect the identity of his victim, was found guilty of one count of rape and one count of sexually assaulting the boy on a date between 1 May 2016 and 30 September 2016 following a Central Criminal Court trial last July.

The child, then aged seven, was showering in his home when the man came in and told the boy his mother had said he should shower with him. The man then sexually assaulted and raped the child, the court heard.

The man was in a relationship with the boy’s mother at the time and occasionally stayed overnight, a local detective garda told the man’s sentence hearing.

The offence came to light a few years later when the boy, then aged 10, confided in his teacher that he had been sexually abused. The boy’s mother was then informed and she immediately contacted gardaí.

At the Court of Appeal last month, counsel for the appellant Ronan Munro SC said his submission had essentially been refined into one point, which was the fairness of the trial.

He submitted that the trial judge erred in law and in fact in ruling that the DVD of the complainant’s interview was admissible on the basis that the child complainant was given “erroneous information” prior to his initial complaint from an unknown source – likely “someone in his close circle” – that the accused was previously in custody for raping a girl.

Munro further submitted that this erroneous information posed a real and serious risk of influencing the initial complaint of the child and his subsequent interview.

He said this was evident in the fact that the child mentioned this information during his initial complaint. Counsel submitted that because of the admission of the DVD into evidence, the fair trial rights of the appellant have not been protected.

The lawyer said the appellant was never convicted for raping a young girl and did not spend any time in custody. He said the man had a conviction for attempting to meet a child.

The man was convicted of the offence of using communication technology to facilitate sexual exploitation of a child contrary to section 8 of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act of 2017 and received a three year fully suspended sentence.

This offence occurred after the assault on the boy.

Mr Munro said the fact that somebody had told the child that the man had gone to jail was an issue which was “largely invisible” to the jury.

“The real concern for [the appellant] and his brother and sister is how can this conviction be safe? That is the central concern,” he said.

Sentencing the man in October 2022, Justice Mary Ellen Ring said the accused had been in a “position of trust” due to his relationship with the boy’s mother.

She said the relationship between the accused and the boy’s mother was serious, even if it was short in length and the man could have been seen as a person he was safe with.

Justice Ring said the accused had also deceived the boy by telling him that his mother said he should shower with him.

She imposed an eight-year prison sentence for the count of rape and three years and six months for the sexual assault, to run concurrently.

Justice Ring said the case highlighted the importance of social, personal and health discussions in schools, which had led to the boy confiding in his teacher about the sexual abuse.

She commended the boy’s teacher and school leadership for listening to him and acting.

Justice Ring said teachers play an “important role in the life of children” and can “assist in the protection of young children, who may not be comfortable talking to others about abuse”.

In a victim impact statement which she read out in court, the boy’s mother said she would never forget the day she was called to the school.

“My mouth went dry and my head started spinning,” she said.

The court heard the boy had previously disclosed to his mother that he had been sexually abused by a family member when he was aged three or four and the woman said she couldn’t believe she had put her “baby boy in danger again”.

She said her son, now aged 14, was robbed of his childhood and forced to grow up “physically and mentally”.

She said he is completely isolated, has no friends and does not play the sports he used to love as he can not be near adult males.