The Criminal Courts of Justice
A LIMERICK man who encouraged the family dog to take part in the sexual abuse of his daughters has lost his appeal against conviction.
Responding to his barrister’s argument that the prosecution should have ‘set out its stall’ on certain issues at the start of the case, the Court of Appeal noted that ‘an accused person is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect trial’.
In July 2018 Patrick Byrnes, 80, whose last address was at Castletroy, Limerick, was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury of 58 charges of indecent assault and two counts of rape on dates between 1975 and 1985.
One of his daughters blamed the abuse for her broken marriage and said she could not bear to be near the family dog after him “willing” the animal to engage in sexual acts with her.
Byrnes began abusing his daughters when they were aged around seven, the year of their First Communion. The court heard that he told the two children that he and their mother would split up if they told anyone about it.
They said they lived in "abject fear" of him and have been left broken by the decade of abuse.
The father-of-nine, a retired taxi driver, had pleaded not guilty to all of the charges and continues to deny them. He was sentenced to eight years with two years suspended by Justice Paul McDermott in October 2018.
Byrnes had appealed his conviction on the basis of how the trial judge dealt with alleged fabrication and collusion by the two complainants in his instructions to the jury.
His barrister, Roisin Lacey SC, also submitted that the verdict was perverse and against the weight of evidence.
Counsel said it was “manifestly clear” that the alleged fabrication of the offences, and collusion and collaboration on behalf of the two complainants was a ‘central plank’ of the defence case.
She said that it was clear from Byrnes’ garda interviews that he was alleging a conspiracy and collusion on behalf of his two daughters.
Ms Lacey said this critical part of the defence case was not addressed in the charge to the jury by the trial judge, whom she submitted dealt with the matter simply by a commentary on the defence case as opposed as a standalone warning.
She argued this reference was “left hanging in the air” without any real or proper direction to the jury on how they should deal with it.
Ms Lacey said there was an error of law committed in the manner in which the jury was not directed on whether they could use the evidence of one complainant as corroborative of the other.
Counsel said that when the case commenced, there also did not appear to be any allusion or elaboration by the prosecution as to the manner in which they were trying the cases together.
She said it was also incumbent on the prosecution to “set out their stall” as to the basis on which they were advancing the evidence and if there was system evidence being advanced.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Gerard Clarke SC, told the court that there was no application to hold separate trials for each complainant and there were no requisitions made by the defence during the trial judge’s charge to the jury.
Delivering judgment at the Court of Appeal this Wednesday, Mr Justice George Birmingham, presiding with Justice Isobel Kennedy and Justice ÚnaNí Raifeartaigh, said they weren’t persuaded by the grounds of appeal.
The court agreed that it would have been desirable if the prosecution had ‘set out its stall at the start of the case and explained why they were proceeding with counts involving two complainants, and how, in their view, the jury should deal with that situation’.
“Such, however, is a counsel of perfection. As has often been said, an accused person is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect trial,” they said, dismissing the appeal.