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20/09/2021

Convicted sex offender challenges refusal to consider his bid legal aid in civil action against him

Man with an address in Donegal was found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy

Convicted sex offender challenges refusal to consider his bid legal aid in civil action against him

Convicted sex offender challenges refusal to consider his bid legal aid in civil action against him

A convicted sex offender has launched High Court challenge over the Legal Aid Board's refusal to provide aid for him to defend civil proceedings brought against him by his victim.

The action has been brought by 77-year-old John Barrow,  who in 2017 was given a six-year prison sentence, with the final two years suspended, by the Circuit Criminal Court after he was found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenage boy.

The assaults occurred on dates between 1989 and 1990, after Barrow had befriended the boy, by offering him free flying lessons.

Barrow would then bring the boy back to his home where the sexual abuse took place. 

Barrow denied the charges, but was found guilty following a three-day trial.

In 2019 the Court of Appeal upheld his conviction.

Following the conclusion of the trial Barrow's victim, now aged in his 40's, initiated a civil action against him, where he seeks damages for assault, battery. trespass to the person and false imprisonment.

Barrow, a retired engineer who has completed his custodial sentence, applied to the Legal Aid Board seeking legal aid for the civil action in 2018. He claims he does not have the means to pay lawyers to represent him in the civil action.

The board turned down his application on grounds including that Barrow did not have reasonable grounds to defend the civil proceedings as he was convicted of a criminal offence in a criminal trial where the burden of proof is much higher.

He claims that and his application was not fully or properly considered by the board.

He claims that issues such as the delay by his victim in issuing the civil proceedings and that the Statute of limitations may apply should have, but were not considered, by the board.

Late last year, following correspondence between his solicitors and the Legal Aid Board, where he raised the issues of delay and the statue, he made what he believed was a fresh application for legal aid.

However, he was informed by the board last February that it could not accept applications for the same matter where a refusal had already been made.

The board also disputed that there had been any agreement about it reconsidering his application.

He claims that the refusal is flawed, and has brought a judicial review action against the Legal Aid Board.

In his action Barrow, of High Road, Annagry, Co Donegal and Upper Mell, Drogheda, Co Louth seeks orders quashing the board's refusal last February to consider his application for Civil Legal Aid. 

Represented by Siobhan Phelan SC, Barrow also seeks an order compelling the board to consider and determine his application for civil legal aid based on fuller and more complete information.

He further seeks declarations including that by failing to accept and consider his application for legal aid the board has fettered its discretion, and failed to vindicate his rights in accordance with the requirements of constitutional justice.

Barrow claims that there is no legal impediment to the board considering a repeat or fresh application for civil legal aid.

He also claims when new information becomes available the board is obliged to consider it.  The board he said in refusing to consider his new application has erred in law and has acted unreasonably and irrationally.

The board's refusal, it is further submitted is in breach of his constitutional rights and his rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan, at Monday's sitting of the High Court. The judge, on an ex-parte basis, granted Barrow permission to bring his action, and made the action returnable to a date in June.

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