A 62-year-old man who sexually abused his two young sisters as children over a seven-year period more than 40 years ago has lost an appeal against his conviction and five-year prison sentence.
At the Court of Appeal on Monday, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said she and her fellow judges, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, had not been persuaded of the merit on any of the grounds of the appeal launched by the man’s legal team, who raised a number of issues, including the risk of an unfair trial due to the offences having taken place more than four decades ago.
In September 2021, the appellant was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury, sitting in Tullamore, Co Offaly, of one count of rape and 12 counts of indecent assault between 1974 and 1981 and was sentenced to five years in prison by Ms Justice Carmel Stewart.
The appellant, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victims, was aged between 14 and 21 at the time of the offending, and his victims were five and 10 years younger than him respectively.
The younger of the two sisters was sexually abused by him at three different addresses during her childhood.
She gave evidence during his trial that on one occasion in 1977, the man entered her room dressed as Santa Clause in a karate suit and caused her to masturbate him.
He continued to abuse her at different addresses, digitally penetrating her and forcing her to perform oral sex on him.
The woman said she stopped speaking because of this abuse, and her mother confirmed that she was mute for a period during childhood. The victim said she was raped by her brother on the same day he announced his engagement in 1981.
The older of the two sisters gave evidence that the appellant had sexually abused her when she was eight or nine. She said he would perform oral sex on her and masturbate while doing so, and on occasion he would read to her from a pornographic book. She said that he raped her when she was 11 or 12.
During the trial, the appellant maintained that he was residing elsewhere during the incidents of abuse.
He made no admissions regarding the younger sister but said he touched the other sister’s vagina externally on a number of occasions.
His lawyers launched the appeal against his conviction on a number of grounds, including that the trial judge should have directed separate trials be held for the allegations of each complainant; that there was a risk of an unfair trial due to the passage of more than 40 years; and that the trial judge amended the indictment after all the evidence had been heard.
Delivering the Court of Appeal's judgment, Ms Justice Kennedy said: "We are not persuaded that there is merit in the criticism that the judge failed to fully and conscientiously exercise her discretion."
She said the court was not persuaded that the trial judge erred in her approach to the issue of separate trials nor erred in her ruling.
Ms Justice Kennedy said that there was nothing to suggest any unfairness to the appellant. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.
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.