The jury in the trial of four men charged with taking part in the gang rape of a teenage girl in a car has begun deliberations.
In the early hours of the morning of December 27th, 2016, in a town in the midlands, the then 17-year-old girl got into a car with five men after getting separated from her friends on a night out.
The defendants each allegedly sexually assaulted her as the car was driven out of the town. The car was driven to a remote location nearby and three of the defendants, and a fifth man who is not on trial, allegedly raped her at this location one after another.
The jury has heard that two of the defendants were later dropped off at a house back in the town and the car was driven to another location.
The woman has said that she asked to be let out of the car but was ignored and that one man raped her for the second time at the same time as a fourth man forced his penis into her mouth.
The defendants, who were aged between 17 and 19 at the time, deny all the charges. Neither they nor the complainant can be identified in accordance with the 1981 Rape Act.
Three weeks of evidence ended on Thursday morning and closing speeches concluded on Friday afternoon. Just before 3pm on Monday afternoon, Justice Tara Burns sent the jury of seven men and five women out to begin deliberations.
She sent the jury home at 4pm to resume deliberations on Tuesday morning.
She had spent the preceding hours charging the jury in the law and summarising the evidence. In her charge she said that the defendants deny that some of the alleged sexual acts took place.
She noted that the defendants accept that some sexual acts did take place but assert that they believed the woman was consenting to these.
She told jurors that for each alleged offence, they must first determine if the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged act took place and that the woman was not consenting to the acts.
She said that a person consents to an act if she freely and voluntarily agrees to engage in that act. She said that it does not follow that submitting to an act means you have consented and that the failure or omission to offer resistance does not of itself amount to consent.
She said that consent can be withdrawn at any time either before or during an act. She told jurors that they must first determine as a fact if the complainant freely and voluntarily consented to intercourse.
She said if they find she did not consent, they must then go on to determine if the prosecution has proved whether each defendant knew she was not consenting or was reckless as to whether or not she was consenting.
She said an accused was reckless if the possibility that the woman was not consenting crossed his mind and he continued in the sexual act.
She said they must decide what the individual defendant believed at the time he committed the alleged acts. She told jurors they must consider each offence separately so that in effect, they are dealing with 17 prosecutions.
She noted that one of the three men accepts that he had sexual intercourse with the woman in the car in the remote location but asserts it was consensual. She said the two other defendants do not accept they had intercourse at this location.
She said in relation to the allegations of sexual assault, one defendant denies that he touched the girl on the drive to the remote location. Another defendant told gardaí that he did intend to engage in “oral sex” with the girl but “baulked” at the last minute after considering that the other men had had intercourse with her already.
Beyond reasonable doubt
A third man denies that the girl masturbated him on the way to the first location, despite having accepted this in interview with gardaí. Justice Burns reminded the jury that the man's lawyers have challenged this admission and allege that it arose as result by pressure being applied to him by gardaí outside of taped interviews.
She said that the gardaí do not accept that the admissions were not voluntary.
Justice Burns told the jury that while other sexual acts are accepted, the defendants claim they believed the girl was consenting to these.
Dealing with the accounts given by the defendants, she said if jurors accepted these they must acquit. She said even if they not believe their accounts but believe it could be reasonably true, they must acquit.
Furthermore, she said, “if you do not accept [the account] or believe it could be reasonably true but you have a reasonable doubt arising from it, you must acquit.”
She said that even if you do not accept the account and the account does not lead to a reasonable doubt as to a defendant's guilt, “that doesn't mean you automatically return a guilty verdict”.
“You must still return to the prosecution case,” she said, and must still determine if on the basis of the prosecution case “are you satisfied beyond reasonable doubt”.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline, or visit Rape Crisis Help
In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112