The jury in a Munster child abuse trial have begun deliberations at the Central Criminal Court following a nine week trial at a temporary court room in Croke Park.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott said to the jury “there was no restriction on time” and to return verdicts based on the evidence before them.
He handed them the issue paper and the various exhibits in the case before he advised them that any verdict returned must be a unanimous one.
The panel of 13 jurors were reduced to 12 members after a male juror was excused when he indicated he had a commitment next week.
“I don’t know whether this is a disappointment or relief to you,” Mr Justice McDermott said addressing the juror before he thanked him “sincerely” for “the effort you put in, in this hard task and then to be met with an anti-climax”.
He acknowledged that the juror had devoted his time to the case, a role which he said is difficult in normal times but particularly during the current times of the pandemic.
Mr Justice McDermott asked the man not to contact the other jurors until “they have concluded their deliberations”. He excused the man from jury service for 10 years.
Earlier in the trial, Mr Justice McDermott directed the jury on a number of legal principles including the burden of proof, presumption of innocence and the ingredients of each of the alleged offences. He also summarised the evidence that was heard during the nine-week trial.
He told the jury that the indictment sets out an extensive set of counts, each of which represent a separate trial.
“The ingredients of the offence as set out in each count have to be established beyond a reasonable doubt, if there is any doubt they have to be acquitted,” Mr Justice McDermott said before he added every separate accused should also be treated separately.
The five family members, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are accused of abusing three children between 2014 and 2016. The accused are the parents, aunt and uncles of the children. They range in ages from 27 to 56 and live in various locations in Munster.
The parents are also accused of neglecting five of their children. All of the accused have denied the charges against them.
Reporting restrictions are in place to protect the welfare and identities of the children.
The 56-year-old father has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts including rape, anal rape, oral rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation and wilfully neglecting a child at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016. An additional three counts against him were withdrawn during the trial.
The 34-year-old mother has pleaded not guilty to 25 counts including sexual assault, sexual exploitation and wilfully neglecting a child at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
The mother and father have also pleaded not guilty to wilfully neglecting another two of their children at a location in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
A 35-year-old woman – the children's aunt - has pleaded not guilty to three counts, including sexually assaulting the girl and sexually assaulting one of the boys at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
Her 49-year-old husband has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts including rape, anal rape, oral rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016. Two additional counts were withdrawn during the trial.
A 27-year-old man – the children's uncle - has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts including rape, oral rape, anal rape, sexual assault and sexual exploitation at locations in Munster on unknown dates between August 18, 2014 and April 28, 2016.
A count of alleged sexual exploitation by him of the eldest boy was withdrawn by order of the trial judge.
The case against two other women – the children's uncle's 32-year-old partner and their 57-year-old grandmother – was withdrawn earlier in the trial by direction of the judge.
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