Clare man appeals conviction for rape and sexual assault of schoolgirl

Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Clare man appeals conviction for rape and sexual assault of schoolgirl

The Criminal Courts of Justice

A STABLE owner who raped and sexually assaulted a teenage girl has brought an appeal against his conviction.

Ger Hehir, 58, of Drumcavan, Ruan, County Clare, had pleaded not guilty to raping the girl and four counts of sexually assaulting her at his home and at horse events around the country on dates between 2010 and 2013.

The Central Criminal Court heard that Hehir first sexually assaulted the girl in 2010 when she was aged 16. She was coming out of one of Hehir's stables when he pinned her up against the wall, put his hands up her top and tried to kiss her.

When she pinched him after asking him to stop, he told her not to do so because his partner would see the marks.

The teenager didn't tell anyone and a week later Hehir again tried to kiss her after he had given her a beer in an equipment room. He pushed on top of her and touched her breasts until she asked him “what if your mother comes?”. He then stopped.

Sometime later in 2010, Hehir invited her to have a smoke out a bedroom window at his home. She was doing so when he lifted her over the bed, took off one of her trouser legs and raped her.

The girl later revealed to gardaí that she “froze”. When she told Hehir that she was only 17, he replied: “You may be only 17, but you're years above your age”.

In early 2011 she was in a horse box undoing a horse's tail bandage when Hehir came up behind her, put his hands in her pants and his finger into her vagina. She pushed him with her elbow and tried to pretend it had not happened.

After the final sexual assault in Cork, in 2013, when Hehir put his hands up her top and squeezed her breasts, she cried all the way home and told her partner a few days later.

Hehir was found guilty on January 25, 2019 following a seven-day trial. He was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended on January 25, 2019. 

He moved to appeal his conviction in the Court of Appeal this Friday where judgment was reserved. 

Hehir's barrister, Caroline Biggs SC, said the appeal focused on the trial judge’s failure to give the jury a warning on the dangers of convicting on uncorroborated evidence as well as “confusion over the issue of consent”. 

Ms Biggs submitted that the trial judge “muddied the waters” on issues related to consent. 

She said the trial judge referred to victims being under the age of 17 and having the requisite capacity to consent. But his instructions were “wrong” in relation to the offence of rape, as being under the age of 17 related “solely to defilement”. 

Ms Biggs said being under 17 had nothing to do with the offence of rape and the trial judge’s instructions to the jury were “unnecessarily confusing”.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Eilis Brennan SC, said the victim’s state of mind was never an issue in the case. Her evidence was that she did not consent and the defence case was that “none of these things ever happened”. 

She said Hehir was a 51-year-old man who used to collect the teenage girl from school, offer her cigarettes and drink. 

If consent was in the case, it was never explicitly propositioned during the trial, and the role of drink was being “overstated” in the appeal. 

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, said the court would reserve its judgment.