A man “of some standing” in his community who repeatedly raped his friend's daughter when she was a child has lost his appeal against conviction.
Lawyers for the man (67), who can't be named to protect the victim's identity, complained to the three-judge Court of Appeal that the trial judge should not have told the jury they could return a majority verdict in circumstances where there was evidence they had not yet considered some of the 32 counts against him.
Michael Bowman SC, for the appellant, also argued that the trial judge should not have allowed the dates of the offences on the indictment to be changed after the prosecution had finished its closing speech to the jury.
In an electronic judgement delivered today, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham dismissed the appeal. He said the jury had been considering their verdict for a considerable period before the judge told them they could return a majority verdict. Commenting on the complaint about the indictment being changed at a late point in the trial, Mr Justice Birmingham said there was no unfairness to the accused and he pointed out that at the time it wasn't a particular concern to the defence. He added: "Overall, we have not been persuaded that the judge’s rulings were erroneous, or that by reason of them, it could be said that the trial was unfair or the verdicts unsafe or unsatisfactory."
The appellant was tried in 2017 and found guilty by a jury of six counts of rape, three counts of sexual assault, three counts of oral rape and one count of attempted oral rape at various locations between June 1991 and August 1992.
He was found not guilty of a further 16 counts of rape, indecent assault and sexual assault. His victim was aged between 12 and 14 at the time of the attacks.
Sentencing him following the trial, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said the abuse had a “deep and long-lasting impact” on the victim, which continues to this day.
“These are very serious offences perpetrated on a young and vulnerable child by a man she believed to have social standing in the community and who was friends with her parents,” Ms Justice Kennedy said. She said the man had engaged in a breach of trust when he abused a child of “tender years” and noted that he has not admitted guilt or expressed remorse for his actions.
Ms Justice Kennedy handed down a nine-year sentence but suspended the final 12 months on a number of conditions.
Detective Garda Claire O'Shaughnessy previously told a sentence hearing that the man was a friend of the victim's parents and a “man of some standing” in his community.
He was in his late thirties and married when he carried out the abuse.
The court heard the abuse started when the girl was raped and sexually assaulted at 12 years of age. The man forced her to give him oral sex on numerous occasions in two office locations, the court heard.
The abuse ended shortly before her 14th birthday.
Mr Justice Birmingham sat with Mr Justice Brian Murray and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy.
Further evidence at trial
The court also heard that the victim spent years just “functioning” and tried to block the abuse out of her mind. However, after the birth of her youngest child, she suffered severe postnatal depression and memories of the abuse came “tumbling out”, prosecution barrister, Pauline Walley SC said.
The woman has since spent time in psychiatric care and has attempted to end her life on several occasions, the court heard.
In an emotional victim impact statement which she read out herself in court, the woman said it was “unbearable” to once again outline the abuse she suffered at the man's hands.
“I don't want him to know any more about me or realise the extent of the power and control he has had over me over the years,” she said.
She said if he had admitted his crimes and had just said the word 'sorry', they might not have ended up in court.
“The shame, the blame, the pain, the humiliation, the anger and isolation I have experienced has done something to me that is impossible to describe,” she said, adding the abuse affected her education, her relationships and her mental health.
“I just want it to go away,” she said. “This should not be my shame to carry. It should be his. But I think he has no shame. I feel guilty for putting him through the process and taking him away from his family.”
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.