Man accused of sexually assaulting four young girls to face trial17/10/2012 - 18:23:58
The High Court has cleared the way for the trial of a man accused of sexually assaulting four young girls in the 1990s.
The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, sought an order prohibiting his trial on the grounds that there had been a culpable delay on the part of the State in prosecuting him for the alleged offences.
The man, who lived in the US for a number of years, was not charged with the offences until late last year, despite the fact the DPP had directed in June 1997 that he be prosecuted.
Today in his judgment Mr Justice Gerard Hogan found there was a culpable delay by the prosecuting parties which amounted to a breach of the man's constitutional rights.
However the Judge said in this particular case an order prohibiting the man's trial was not appropriate. He held that the delay in this case was "far removed from the type of endemic delay" involved in other cases that have come before the courts.
The man is charged with sexually assaulting the girls between June and August 1996. The alleged victims were all aged between 11 and 13 at the time. Arising out of the complaints, he was arrested and questioned about the allegations.
Around the same time the man's marriage broke down, and he lost his job. He then moved back with his parents, before moving to the US.
He made a number of visits back to Ireland, before returning to live her permanently several years ago. On his return he obtained social security assistance, which required being vetted by the gardai.
In February 2011 one of the original complainants spoke to the gardai about her complaint against the man.
A detective on reviewing the case discovered that in 1997 the DPP directed that the man be prosecuted.
This direction had not been acted on because at that stage the Gardai believed the man had fled the jurisdiction. When the Detective made inquires about the man's location he discovered he was back in Ireland.
The man was then arrested and charged before the District Court. He was returned for trial before the Circuit Criminal Court.
The man then brought High Court proceedings aimed at preventing his trial due to the delay in prosecuting him.
In his ruling Mr Justice Hogan said it "was impossible to avoid the conclusion that the authorities failed to act promptly and with diligence in the prosecution of the these offences."
It appeared that the gardai did not tell any member of the man's family that he was in contact with that they wished to speak with him.
The Judge said that what seems to have happened is that the gardai assumed in 1996-97 the man had fled Ireland and simply vanished.
It was hard to avoid the conclusion that the gardai overlooked potential leads to his whereabouts. Interpol was not contacted nor did the gardai make inquiries with the US authorities about the man.
While this was the major reason for the delay the man, the Judge added, had "contributed in some measure to these difficulties by the manner in which he departed from the State". At that stage the man was free to leave the country.
However the Judge said that the man ought to have known at that point that "the question of his prosecution was under active consideration."
In dismissing the application to halt the trial the Judge said that while the delay was long and unacceptable, this was not a case where witnesses have died or where memories have dimmed.
In addition the Judge said that if the prosecution was halted then the complainant's allegations could not be adjudicated on their merits.
The Judge said that the breach of the man's rights could be remedied by other means.
He said these include that authorities will act quickly by arranging a trial in very early course. Damages could also be an appropriate remedy, the Judge added.
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