Wicklow rape trial collapses

A rape trial has collapsed after the alleged victim refused to give consent for the release of “sensitive personal information” held by social workers.

The accused man had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to raping the woman at a place in County Wicklow in May 2009.

Before ruling on the issue of the information held by social workers, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, asked counsel for the State and the defendant if there were any issues with respect to disclosure relating to the “recent controversy of telephone recordings”.

He went on to say that the President of the High Court had issued guidance on how judges should raise the issue at the outset of criminal trials or as early as possible.

"In light of the potential one feels it is appropriate to canvass the issue. Judges have welcomed the assistance of the President of the High Court,” he said.

However barristers told the court that in this case that they didn't believe the issue of recordings of telephone conversations at garda stations would be an issue in this case.

Giolliasa O’Lideadha SC, defending, went on to say that there was a separate and more significant issue around the disclosure of documentary material detailing personal information about the complainant held by agencies.

In the absence of the jury, counsel for the agencies told the court that while they were the holder of the information they were not the controller and that the controller was the complainant.

Counsel said they had a duty to the court to inform it that there was material that should be seen by the Director of Public Prosecutions, which can then assess its relevance to the criminal matter at hand.

They further added that it is material which the defence should have.

Having heard submissions, Mr Justice McCarthy said that if there was a risk of an unfair trial the trial could not proceed. He ruled that this case could not proceed because of the complainant’s wish to maintain her privacy.

“If there be an issue as to whether or not an accused person can or cannot obtain a fair trial in the absence, notwithstanding the public right to prosecute, a court must ensure the trial does not proceed,” he said.

Counsel for one of the agencies said that its position is that the complainant has the capacity to consent to the disclosure of her personal information. They said that if the court made an order compelling her to disclose this information, it would leave her vulnerable.

Following the ruling prosecution counsel, Paul Burns SC, said the Director of Public Prosecutions was entering a nolle proequi in the case.

Mr Justice McCarthy discharged the jury after telling them that the trial could not proceed. No evidence had been heard in the case before the jury.

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