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03 Dec 2021

Middle-aged man guilty of historic sex abuse in Donegal loses appeal against conviction

Man had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 24 counts of indecent assault of his cousin

Middle-aged man guilty of historic sex abuse in Donegal  loses appeal against conviction

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court

A middle-aged man who was jailed for the historic sex abuse of his younger cousin at their grandmother’s home in the 1980s has lost his appeal against the conviction. 

The man, who is now 53, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 24 counts of indecent assault of his cousin at an address in Co Donegal, on dates between April 1, 1984 and January 1, 1990. 

But a jury convicted him of all counts following a trial in July 2019 and he was jailed for 10 years by Judge Melanie Greally. 

The indictment on which he had stood trial contained 49 counts of indecent assault and named two complainants: the victim and a young girl.  

The appeal heard the man was acquitted on charges relating to the girl's allegations. 

The convicted man said his conviction should be quashed because the trial judge had erred in failing to sever the indictment so as to provide for separate trials of the allegations made by each complainant. 

His lawyers also argued that Judge Greally had erred in failing to discharge the jury arising from an issue that arose during the cross-examination of a defence witness, who was the paternal aunt of the appellant; and failed to give an appropriately strong warning to the jury on the dangers of convicting in the absence of corroboration. 

A corroboration warning can be given by a judge to a jury to highlight the dangers of convicting a defendant on the basis of uncorroborated evidence. 

However, in a written judgment issued today, the Court of Appeal President, Mr Justice George Birmingham, dismissed the appeal. 

“We have not been persuaded by the grounds of appeal advanced in oral and written submissions that we should doubt the satisfactory nature of the trial or that we should have any doubts about the fairness of the trial or the safety of the verdict,” wrote Mr Justice Birmingham.  

The Court President, along with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, had concluded that the application to discharge the jury had been “properly dealt with” by Judge Greally. 

“We agree with her assessment that little, if indeed any, harm was done, and that it was a matter that was fully capable of being dealt with by way of directions to the jury,” Mr Justice Birmingham wrote. 

Regarding the corroboration warning, the judges observed that the verdicts “might be interpreted as indicating that the jury had heeded and acted upon the judge’s warning”. 

They also backed the judge’s decision not to split the indictment. 

“It seems to us to be very clear indeed that the multiple counts of indecent assault which appeared on the indictment formed or were part of a series of offences of the same or similar character,” the judgment stated. 

Previous evidence

Previously, the court heard that the man and the victim were first cousins. There was a nine-year age gap between the two and the offending behaviour commenced when the victim was aged six. 

The victim said his abuser made him perform oral and intercourse acts and he remembered cleaning up afterwards and being told to be quiet. 

Judge Greally said the victim impact report made it clear the victim felt “irreversibly tainted” by his childhood experiences. 

She said the victim had experienced considerable isolation as a result of the division in his family as a consequence of him disclosing the abuse. 

Judge Greally said the case was aggravated by the extreme nature of the offending, the long period of time over which the offending occurred, the regularity of the offending, the extreme youth of the victim, the breach of trust and the intense emotional and psychological turmoil the offending caused the victim. 

She said the case was mitigated by the then accused being a minor during the initial crimes and a very young man during the later crimes, his lack of previous convictions, his living a productive life since the offending, his achievements in business and his pro-social family life. 

Judge Greally said she was distinguishing between the 10 offences of indecent assault committed by the man as a minor and the 14 later offences of indecent assault committed when he was an adult. 

She sentenced him to four years’ imprisonment for the earlier offences and six years’ imprisonment for the later offences. She ordered that the sentences run consecutively with each other for an effective operating sentence of ten years imprisonment. 

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