THE jury in the trial of a retired teacher who is accused of indecently assaulting 13 schoolboys at a school in Limerick almost 40 years ago has begun its deliberations.
The 73-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been accused of 78 counts of indecent assault relating to offences which are alleged to have occurred on various dates between September 1, 1978, and June 30, 1981.
However, the jurors have been told that following legal arguments in their absence the number of charges before the court had been reduced to 72.
The defendant denies all of the charges.
The prosecution closed its case this Wednesday morning and the jury heard closing speeches from the prosecution and defence yesterday.
Judge John Hannon concluded his charge to the jury shortly after 11am today following which the seven men and five women retred to begin their deliberations.
Earlier this week, the seven men and five women were told the defendant denied the allegations when they were put to him by gardai following his arrest in May 2011.
He was detained at a Dublin garda station for more than 10 hours during which time he was questioned on three separate occasions. Transcripts of each of the interviews were read to the jury by John O’Sullivan BL, prosecuting.
During the first interview, which began shortly after midday on May 4, 2011, the pensioner was asked if he remembered teaching at the primary school where the offences are alleged to have taken place. He told detectives he did but could not remember details of which class he taught.
Over the course of the three interviews the names of individual complainants were put to him along with their specific allegations.
He told gardai he could not remember the names of every individual pupil but said some of the names were “vaguely familiar”.
When asked did he remember putting his hands under the clothes of a named pupil and rubbing his back he said he did not and that he “would not have done that to anyone in my class”.
When asked about allegations that he had crouched down beside another pupil’s desk and fondled him he told gardai “I did not do it”.
When an allegation was put to him that he kissed another pupil on the mouth he said: “I would not have done what he alleges.”
He denied erecting a makeshift dock and staging a mock trial at the top of the classroom saying: “I definitely don’t remember such activity.”
During the interviews the defendant told gardai he would never have been left alone with pupils and that he never kept pupils back after school.
The jury was told the defendant was released without charge following the third interview and that a file was prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions who subsequently directed he be charged.
Detective Garda Paul Crowley confirmed the defendant was not arrested until statements had been taken from the alleged victims and other potential witnesses.
In her evidence, Detective Garda Deirdre Foley said she made contact with the defendant on June 18, 2012 after directions from the DPP were received.
She said he agreed to travel to Limerick to facilitate the preferring of charges against him and she said he presented himself at a garda station in Limerick as arranged a number of days later.
The accused man first appeared before the District Court on June 21, 2012 after he was formally charged.
Being questioned by Kathleen Leader BL, defending, Det Garda Foley said she could not recall if there was a media presence in court on the day.
Ms Leader put it to her there was a large media presence and that they “seemed to take particular interest” in her client’s case.
She said the defendant was “pursued” by members of the media as he left the court and she suggested reporters had been informed of his appearance in court beforehand.
Det Garda Foley said she had not spoken to any members of the media about the case and that “no details were given by me to members of the media”.
She confirmed the defendant had been brought before a scheduled court sitting adding that there are media present in the district court “most days”.
Statements which were taken from two other pupils who were taught by the accused man around the time of the alleged offences were read to the jury.
One former pupil told gardai he did not remember his former teacher and that “I don’t remember a thing from his class”.
Another pupil said he did not remember any abuse taking place and that “he [the accused] never did anything to me”.
Det Garda Foley confirmed that as part of the garda investigation the role books from the school were obtained and that former pupils were asked to point out their names when interviewed.
When Ms Leader asked was this to “refresh” their memories, she replied: “I just wanted to establish they did attend the class.”
The jury has also been told that in January 2014, the defendant unsuccessfully applied to the High Court to have the case against him stopped on the grounds of delay and prejudicial publicity.