Court halts trial of elderly man on historic abuse charges

The man, who cannot be named, was facing trial for offences allegedly committed on 11 individuals between January 1968 and December 1992
Court halts trial of elderly man on historic abuse charges

The Court of Appeal (CoA) has halted the trial of an elderly man on 31 charges of indecent assault on grounds of delay in prosecuting him.

The man, who cannot be named, was facing trial for offences allegedly committed on 11 individuals between January 1968 and December 1992.

He had already previously been tried on three separate occasions in relation to similar offences of indecent assault relating to different complainants. In the first trial, in 2003, he was acquitted on all counts.

Fourteen years later, he was convicted and jailed for 20 months for three indecent assaults on two complainants. His appeal against that was dismissed in 2019.

In February 2019, he was again convicted of 12 counts of indecent assault, and one of sexual assault, on seven complainants. He got four years imprisonment for those offences and again his appeal against it was dismissed.

Judicial review

The latest prosecution, which the CoA halted on Monday, arose out of complaints made against him in April 2012 and February 2014.

He brought a High Court judicial review challenge claiming he could not receive a fair trial because of delays of five and seven years between when the complaints were made and when he was charged in May 2019.

It was also argued, among other things, he was in poor health physically and mentally and had difficulty giving instructions to his lawyer.

The High Court last December rejected the challenge.

In his appeal to the CoA, he argued, among other things, the High Court judge had erred in failing to follow a previous (2006) High Court decision which it was argued was binding on her.

The DPP opposed the appeal.

No age restriction

In her decision on behalf of the three-judge CoA, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said, having carefully scrutinised the facts in this case, she not believe that any of the factors identified by the man, taken alone, would bring the case into the kind of exceptional category so as to render a trial unjust or unfair.

It was quite clear that old cases may be prosecuted, she said.

It was also clear, and the judge's firm view, that age is no restriction, nor is ill health, either mental or physical.

However, she said, it was not only a question of the individual factors but also the cumulative impact of the various factors present in this case.

She did not find that any single period of delay would in and of itself require the trial to be prohibited.

But when she looked at the entire period, together with the other factors, she was driven to "the inexorable conclusion that this is one of those rare cases, where the cumulative factors are such so as to bring this matter into the wholly exceptional category where it would be unjust to put the appellant on trial."

She set aside the order of the High Court and also granted the man an extension of time and an injunction restraining the DPP from further prosecuting him on the charges before the Circuit Criminal Court.

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