16 Aug 2022

Retired member of religious order seeks to prevent his trial for sexual assault going ahead

Retired member of religious order seeks to prevent his trial for sexual assault going ahead

A retired member of a Catholic religious order is seeking a High Court order preventing his trial on charges of child sexual abuse dating back to the 1960s from going ahead.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is facing four charges of sexual assault made against him by a woman, on dates between 1966 and 1969.

The complainant was a secondary school student and a minor at the time of the alleged assaults which all took place in Co Galway.

The first assault is alleged to have taken place in the room of an Abbey.  Two other alleged assaults took place when the girl was bringing communion for Sunday Mass to a Convent.

She claims the accused waited for her near the convent, before violently assaulting her on those occasions.

The fourth charge relates to an incident around Christmas time, when she claims the man came up behind her, pushed her against a wall and assaulted her.

The man, who is now aged in his eighties, denies the allegations.

He claims he cannot get a fair trial due to the delay between the time of the alleged offences and the time he was charged.

He also claims that he will suffer prejudice because he has aged related dementia and cognitive impairment that has affected his memory.

The accused trial has been set down before the Circuit Criminal Court.

However due to the delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic it is not known when his trial will take place.

Represented by Hugh Hartnett SC the man claims that the alleged events took place over 50 years ago.

In addition, the man claims there was a considerable delay when the complainant first went to the police about the allegations in 2017 and the time that he was charged with the offence in December 2020. 

No explanation has been given for the delay in charging the man who was first interviewed about the allegations by Gardai in 2018, counsel said.

Due to medical condition, which counsel said is dynamic and progressive, it was unlikely that the man will be able to defend himself should the case go to trial before a judge and jury.

As a result, the man has brought judicial review proceedings against the DPP where he seeks an order prohibiting his trial from proceeding.

It is the man's case that the prosecution is guilty of inordinate prosecutorial delay, which has deprived the man of a fair trial contrary to his Constitutional rights, and rights under the European Convention of 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 the accused permission, to bring his challenge.

The judge also placed a stay on the trial pending the outcome of the judicial review action. The case will return before the High Court in October. 

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