Convicted child sex offender fails to halt trial for 270 counts of alleged abuse

The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's decision to dismiss the accused's claim that his right to a fair trial has been prejudiced by the length of time it has taken to bring proceedings against him
Convicted child sex offender fails to halt trial for 270 counts of alleged abuse

Peter Doyle

A convicted child sex offender who has been charged with 270 counts of historic abuse against minors has failed to overturn a ruling from the High Court to send him to trial.

The offences involve six complainants and are alleged to have taken place between December 1978 and March 1993.

The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, is now facing two separate trials involving three complainants each.

The 71-year-old had originally sought a judicial review from the High Court to stop both trials going ahead.

He had claimed that several people who could have given evidence on his behalf were now dead and his right to a fair trial has been prejudiced by the length of time it has taken to bring proceedings against him. He had also argued the publicity surrounding his case meant he could not get a fair trial.

However, in a High Court judgment delivered in January 2021, Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan rejected his claims.

Court of Appeal

The man later appealed Ms Justice O’Regan’s decision to the Court of Appeal, which on Tuesday also dismissed his bid to prevent the Circuit Court trials taking place.

In a judgement delivered by Court President Mr Justice George Birmingham, the three-judge court said the fact the appellant had previously been jailed for the sexual abuse of “other minors” was “of central significance”.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who was sitting with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, noted that the appellant claimed the media coverage of the previous proceedings meant he “could not hope to have a fair trial”.

However, the judge dismissed the appeal, observing that it was the “latest in a long line of cases to come before the courts where a person is accused of historic sexual abuse crimes and has sought relief by way of judicial review”.

He noted that when “viewed in the round”, the man’s “real complaint” derived from the fact that one of the alleged victims, referred to as C in the judgement, contacted gardaí with a complaint in 1987 “but had declined to follow up on the initial contact”.

“At its height, there seems to be a suggestion that if Gardaí had been more committed in 1987, it is possible that the extent of the appellant’s offending would have emerged at that time and that each of the complainants would have been identified at that stage,” he said.

“However, it seems to me that is speculative in the extreme.”

The judge also noted the man was now a “convicted and sentenced person”.

“In summary, I have not been persuaded it would be appropriate to halt the forthcoming trials, either generally or in respect of individual complaints,” Mr Justice Birmingham said.

“On the contrary, it seems to me that the issues on this application are matters that can appropriately be dealt with by the trial judge.”

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. 

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