Man loses appeal against conviction for sexual assault on his godson and the latter’s cousin

Some of the offences occurred at a caravan park in Donegal 

Man loses appeal against conviction for sexual assault on his godson and the latter’s cousin

A Belfast man has lost an appeal against his conviction and six-and-half year jail sentence for the sexual assault of his godson and that boy’s cousin.

Some of the offences occurred at a caravan park in Donegal which the man visited with his neighbour and the two boys.

The Court of Appeal said it was satisfied that the trial judge had made no error in his conduct of the case and his approach to sentencing.

Following a jury trial in October 2018, the man, now aged 70 years, was convicted of five counts of sexual assault and one count of indecent assault on dates between 1989 and 1996 when the boys were aged between seven and 14 years old.

Four of the charges of sexual assault related to his godson’s cousin with the remaining two charges relating to his godson, who was the son of one of his neighbours..

The trial heard the man gave the boys alcohol after his neighbour had gone to bed. On one occasion, he sexually assaulted his godson’s cousin after sitting him on his lap in the driving seat of his car after learning the boy was interested in cars.

Lawyers for the man said the trial judge had erred by ruling that a statement made by his godson’s cousin to his own wife in 2010 was the first reasonable opportunity he had to make a complaint.

In addition, they claimed the judge had erred in law by ruling the prosecution was allowed to lead evidence that the delay by the victim in reporting the offences was due to his suffering mental health issues for a number of years.

The victim explained he had feared the effect which knowledge of the offences would have on his mother as his aunt, the mother of the other victim, had been suicidal after she had learnt about what had happened to her own son.

The Court of Appeal with Mr Justice George Birmingham presiding, with Mr Justice Seamus Woulfe and Mr Justice John Edwards, concluded that in such circumstances the occasion in 2010 was the first reasonable opportunity that the victim had to make a statement about the offences.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court was satisfied that the trial judge had given careful consideration to the circumstances in which the victim had raised the complaint and the background to the case.

He said it seemed that the complaint by the victim to his wife was sufficiently close in time to the formal complaint made to gardaí that it did not really change the dynamics of the case.

Mr Justice Birmingham said it seemed it had been suggested that the victim had effectively been allowed to give expert evidence about his own mental health and why it explained his delay in telling people about the offences.

“We do not believe there is any reason why someone cannot speak about their own health,” Mr Justice Birmingham said.

On the appeal against the sentence, the Court of Appeal dismissed claims by the man’s lawyers that the trial judge had paid insufficient attention to their client’s work record and lack of previous convictions.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court was not persuaded there had been any error in the judge’s approach to sentencing.

“This was serious offending which was always required to be met with a significant sentence,” the judge concluded.

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