The Criminal Courts of Justice, Dublin
A FORMER Limerick-based garda has appealed his conviction for sexually assaulting his wife’s niece.
The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was sentenced to four years' imprisonment last year after he was found guilty of the offence by a majority verdict.
The garda, who was based in the Limerick garda division at the time, denied the charge that he had sexually assaulted his wife’s 10-year-old niece, who was also his goddaughter, at his home on November 27, 2016.
The man, who is aged in his 40s, was suspended from the force shortly after a formal complaint was made. He was dismissed following his conviction.
Counsel for the appellant, Colman Cody SC, told a hearing of the Court of Appeal this Monday that the trial judge, Judge Thomas Teehan, had failed to make any reference to the cross-examination of the complainant when reading transcripts of interviews with her to the jury.
Mr Cody said the judge should have made some reference to inconsistencies that had been raised by the defence about the girl’s evidence and had not provided “a fair synopsis” of the case to the jury.
Mr Cody said Judge Teehan has also failed to properly put his client’s defence to the jury that the allegation of sexual assault had been made up by the girl and her mother as well as erring in his directions to jurors on the issue of reasonable doubt.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, observed that there was not “a great deal of material” in relation to the appellant’s defence for the judge to consider.
Opposing the appeal on behalf of the DPP, Róisín Lacey SC, said there was no standard formula for how a trial judge should charge a jury so long as they substantially dealt appropriately with all relevant matters.
“It was a fair trial and a fair charge to the jury,” Ms Lacey said.
She claimed the man’s defence was “fundamentally no more nuanced than an absolute denial – that the offence simply did not happen.”
The trial heard that the girl and her mother were visiting the home of the garda and his wife for an overnight stay before a family trip to visit Santa.
All three adults had attended a table quiz in a local pub but the man was first to leave to go home to allow a babysitter to leave.
The court heard that the man entered the bedroom where his niece was sleeping and sexually assaulted her.
The girl told specialist interviewers that she pretended to be asleep when her uncle rubbed her neck before penetrating her “front bum” with his finger for several minutes.
The court heard the incident had a devastating impact on the girl and she was afraid her uncle would come to her home or school because she had told her mother what had happened.
When asked to write down how she felt, the girl wrote on a piece of paper: “very sad, scared, lonely, angry and disappointed.”
Mr Justice Birmingham, presiding, with Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, reserved judgement in the case.
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