Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Paul Neilan

A pensioner who was jailed for sexually abusing three of his granddaughters has launched an appeal against his convictions, arguing there was no evidence to justify the time gap between the offending and complaints made by the girls.

The man (76) who is from the southwest and who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of his victims was jailed for six years with the final two suspended by Judge Orla Crowe at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court in June 2021.

He had pleaded not guilty to 13 sexual assaults of the girls who were aged between eight and 11-years-old, but a unanimous jury found him guilty on all charges.

The period of abuse for the first granddaughter occurred between March 1st, 2009 and August 31st, 2010; between October 1st 2012, and February 11th 2014, for the second girl and between April 1st 2012, and 30th September 2014, for the third girl.

The first granddaughter made a complaint to her teacher that her grandfather was inappropriately touching her in January 2014. She made her complaint to gardaí in 2016 which Mr Anthony Sammon SC, for the appellant, said was “well in excess” from the final complaint against his client.

The third girl confided in a school friend in 2016. Mr Sammon said there had been “no evidential foundation” at the trial for the “delay” in making the complaint and the evidence given by both the friend and the teacher should not have been admitted without being tested.

Mr Sammon said that there was a “doctrine of recent complaint” which meant the court was entitled to test if the complaints were made as soon as reasonably possible.

He said the court was entitled to enquire about whether the time-lapse in making a complaint was “justified” but that it had not been done in the cases against his client.


Mr Justice George Birmingham said the question for the court was with regard to “reasonableness” and not if the complaint was made “speedily”, noting that there may be multiple charges spread over several years in some cases.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said factors such as trauma, familial situations and the age of the child were to be taken into account when assessing the reasonableness of the timing of the complaint in such cases.

Mr Sammon said there was no evidence to justify the delay “either way”. Mr Sammon said the first of the girls had said in evidence that she had also confided in a friend before she went to her teacher but there had been no statement from the friend, who was not a witness in the case.

Katherine McGillicudy BL, for the State, said the first of the girls had “voluntarily and spontaneously” told the court in her evidence about telling her friend before confiding in her teacher and that the girl’s friend had not wished to make a statement.

Ms McGillicuddy said that because the man was the girls’ maternal grandfather there had been a difficult situation in the family about coming forward.

When the girls’ father was told of the abuse he went to confront his wife’s father, who denied the abuse.

Counsel said that one of the girls said she had been in prolonged shock at what had happened to her at such a young age but that all three girls had been consistent in their evidence which was heard over two days.

Ms McGillicuddy said it was not just the first complaint that could be admissible to trial and more than one complaint can be admissible.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court would reserve its judgement in the case.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help. 

In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112. 

Comments are closed.

Contact Newsdesk: +353 59 9170100

More National News