Clare man appeals conviction for rape of schoolgirl at 18th birthday party

A 32-year-old Clare man has appealed against his conviction for raping a schoolgirl at his sister’s 18th birthday party
Clare man appeals conviction for rape of schoolgirl at 18th birthday party

Natasha Reid

A 32-year-old Clare man has appealed against his conviction for raping a schoolgirl at his sister’s 18th birthday party more than five years ago, arguing that Gardaí failed to examine the scene.

Richard O’Mara, with an address at Walnut Avenue, Kingswood, Tallaght, Dublin was jailed for 12 years for twice raping the teenager on October 18th, 2015.

He had pleaded not guilty to both counts of rape at Ballymulcashel, Kilmurry, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare but was found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury last year.

The schoolgirl said that she was so afraid of seeing him again that she did not leave her bedroom for two months afterwards.

Justice Tara Burns described what happened as a ‘vicious, horrifying attack’ in which O’Mara had used ‘deceit, violence and force’ in the first rape before subjecting her to an ‘even more vicious rape’ later.

She sentenced O’Mara to 14 years’ imprisonment but suspended the final two years on strict conditions. Restrictions were lifted at the time to allow the publication of O’Mara’s name.

He appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeal today.

Scene

His barrister, Michael Delaney SC, focused on the refusal of the court to stop the trial in light of the ‘failure of gardaí to conduct any examination at the scene’ when the rape allegation was first made to them several months later.

He said that the complainant’s statement had raised the possibility that she had bled at the scene and that semen had been deposited on a sofa there. However, gardaí had not conducted any technical examination, he said.

The investigating officer, Detective Garda David Lang, had testified that such an examination would not have been beneficial eight months after the event, but confirmed that no advice had been sought from the forensic science laboratory before this decision was taken.

Mr Delaney quoted from a report prepared for the defence by forensic scientist Orla Sower after the trial.

“For a quantity of semen soaked into the weave of the sofa fabric or the underlying foam, as long as the enzyme activity is not lost through washing, abrasion due to use of the sofa or heat generated by someone sitting on the sofa, then it is possible that semen could remain detectable for nine months,” she wrote.

“Gardaí could have found out if it was washed or how much it was used,” suggested Mr Delaney. “The bottom line here is that it’s entirely possible that semen could be detected nine months later.”

Maurice Coffey SC responded on behalf of the DPP.

He said that the applicable test had not been met by the appellant, "being that the absence of the missing evidence deprived the accused of a realistic opportunity of an obviously useful line of defence".

The court, presided over by President George Birmingham, reserved judgment.

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