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Woman, 66, accused of sexually assaulting minor 40 years ago obtains stay on trial

A woman charged with sexually assaulting a teenage resident of a foster home 46 years ago has obtained a High Court order staying her criminal trial, writes Ann O’Loughlin.

The 66-year-old woman, who was around 20 years of age at the time of the alleged offence, is accused of carrying out the assault on a 14-year-old girl in the home which was run by nuns.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan granted leave to Peter Finlay SC, for the woman, to bring judicial review proceedings against the DPP because she believes she will not get a fair trial due to an 11-year delay between when the complaint was first made and when she was charged.

Mr Finlay said the complainant had been living in Australia and on a visit here in 2005, she claims she confronted the woman, although this is disputed.

A peculiar feature of this case was that no complaint was made to Gardai until 2016, Mr Finlay said.

Of two nuns who ran the home, one is deceased and the other is elderly and seriously ill, Counsel said. Another woman who made a statement as part of the investigation had done so on condition that another resident of the home would not be contacted.

This meant that another possible witness in the case was not available to the prosecution or defence, counsel said.

Mr Finlay said his client is under severe stress as a result of the prosecution. It was affecting her memory and her mental state is disturbed in the extreme, he said.

She believes she will not receive a fair trial.