Four members of an extended family were “treated like dogs” and grew up in an environment where they were sexually abused by a number of their male relatives, an abuse trial jury has been told.
A 66-year-old man and his three sons, aged 38, 40 and 41, are on trial at the Central Criminal Court charged with numerous counts of sexually abusing four family members, who were all children at the time.
The 63-year-old wife of the oldest man is also on trial charged with assisting one of her sons who allegedly anally raped her granddaughter, and assaulting her granddaughter and nephew.
The court has heard that the alleged offences occurred between 1999 and 2005 in various locations around the country. The jury has been told that the complainants and the accused are all part of an extended Traveller family.
There is a total of 126 counts on the indictment. The five defendants deny all of the charges against them.
In his closing speech to the jury on Friday, Shane Costelloe SC, prosecuting, told the jury that the case boiled down to whether it was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt with the veracity of the four complainants in the case and the evidence they gave.
Mr Costelloe told the jury he had started the case by describing the evidence they would hear as “unsettling and unsavoury”, which it was.
But he said the jury must decide whether it was unsettling and unsavoury because four complainants came to court and told a “pack of lies” with the purpose of “stitching up five innocent people” or whether it was “unsettling and unsavoury that four children were sexually abused in the manner in which they have alleged”.
“They were treated like dogs, as one of them expressed it,” Mr Costelloe said, adding that the complainants grew up in an environment where they were orally, anally and in one case vaginally raped by family members.
Mr Costelloe outlined some of the evidence the court had heard, including the complainants' accounts of what they alleged happened to them. The complainants are the oldest couple's daughter and granddaughter and their two nephews.
Alleged repeated rapes
In relation to the first female complainant who alleges she was repeatedly raped and sexually abused by three of her brothers, Mr Costelloe said she was “a child who has been sexually abused from approximately the age of seven”.
He told the jury it is uncontested that this woman was raped by her father – the oldest accused man in the case – over a period of time and had a baby as a result. The jury has been told this matter is not before the court.
“Think of the life this child was having,” Mr Costelloe said. “Her father and her three brothers are doing this to her...These men in her life were supposed to be looking out for her. A young girl and this is what they were doing to her.”
In the case of the second female complainant, who was allegedly raped by her grandfather – the 66-year-old man - in a hay bale, Mr Costelloe told the jury: “He didn't give a damn whether she was consenting or not, he was having his way with her.”
In relation to a male complainant who alleges he was repeatedly raped by the same man – his uncle – Mr Costelloe urged the jury to remember the complainant's demeanour and how he was “embarrassed” and “mortified” at having to come to court and give evidence.
This man alleges that on one occasion he was anally raped by his uncle in a van in the middle of the night before being sent down to a stream to wash off the blood. “It's hard to imagine a more harrowing account,” Mr Costelloe said.
In relation to the level of detail in the case, Mr Costelloe said these were adults doing their best to recall what happened to them when they were children. He said one of the complainants had put it eloquently when she said: “When you're a child growing up on the side of the road, you can't be expected to take everything in.”
“These were children, Traveller children, moving around the country, living down country lanes and on the side of roads,” he said. “They did the absolute level best they could.”
In relation to suggestions the complainants were making up the allegations because they were seeking compensation, Mr Costelloe said there was no evidence three of the complainants had made a claim. The court has heard one of the female complainants received compensation.
He said there was “zero evidence” to suggest any of the complainants were “colluding with each other to stitch up these people”.
“They came here and told you the truth,” he said. “They have nothing to gain from it...You should be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the prosecution has proven the acts took place and you should be satisfied you can convict the accused on each of the relevant counts.”
In his closing speech to the jury, Michael Bowman SC, representing the 66-year-old man, said it was a case of “harrowing detail” involving allegations of “gratuitous sexual violence”.
This man has pleaded not guilty to 25 charges including two charges of anally raping his granddaughter and 23 charges against his nephew - 12 charges of anal rape, 10 charges of oral rape and one charge of assault causing harm.
Mr Bowman said the prosecution had “abandoned its search for detail in the case”, in particular in relation to the nephew, and that the defence had instead had to establish a timeline of events relating to this complainant.
The court has heard this man went to live with his aunt and uncle – the accused married couple – after his father died when he was aged around nine. However, Mr Bowman said the timeline was “entirely inconsistent”.
Mr Bowman said the nephew first alleges he was raped on a night he was sleeping in a caravan with his two brothers, but care records show the three brothers were not together with the aunt and uncle until February 2002.
He said the complainant alleged he was abused by his uncle two to three times a week during the period on the indictment – September 1999 to March 2002. “That can't be so in the evidence we have established as being a position in fact,” he said.
Mr Bowman said the complainant's evidence was given in “general, vague and non-specific terms” and that when “pushed” for detail, he said “nonsensical” things including that he didn't know his seasons.
He told the jury that they were “at sea” in relation to the evidence of the granddaughter as there were no care records in relation to her but that they should look “long and hard” at this evidence.
The time delay in bringing the case was “corrosive” and “enriched the prosecution”, the jury was told. Mr Bowman urged the jury to engage in “critical analysis as opposed to the colour, passion and emotion” of the prosecution case and to find his client not guilty of all counts.
The trial resumes on Monday before Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring and the jury.
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.