Friday, March 03, 2023

A CARLOW man was convicted of the historic indecent assault of his nieces following a jury trial. At the local circuit court last week, the defendant, aged in his mid-60s, was found guilty of 16 counts of indecent assault of his two nieces on unknown dates between 1987 and 1991. The defendant had contested the offences.

The nieces, who are sisters and are now aged in their 30s and 40s, gave evidence under cross-examination during the week-long trial. The case was heard ‘in camera’ with reporting restrictions.

The youngest sister gave evidence that she was aged between four and six when the abuse started. On one occasion she was brought into a field in Co Carlow, where her uncle began touching around her genitalia. He took out his penis and asked her to touch it. Similar incidents occurred number of times. The uncle said he would throw the child into a river if she told anyone.

There had also been four separate incidents in the bedroom of a family home in Co Carlow. On one occasion, he forced the girl to open her legs and put his fingers inside her. He tried to insert his penis and then masturbated.

On a separate occasion, he undressed her, told her to face a wall and masturbated against her backside.

On a third occasion, the defendant was drunk, pulled down her underwear and masturbated in front of her before falling asleep.

On another date, the victim had fallen asleep on a sofa when the defendant put his hand down her trousers. The girl told him she was sick and to stop, and he did.

In evidence, the older sister said she was aged between eight and ten when she was molested. She said her uncle would get her to lie down and masturbate against her. This had occurred in the bedroom of a family home, in a caravan, in a field and in an outhouse. On more than one occasion, the uncle would bring a plastic bag for the girl to lie on.

In one incident, the girl was sitting in the sitting room and her uncle came in and rubbed his penis off her leg and masturbated.

In a garda interview, the defendant said he never molested either sister and that they were telling lies.

In final arguments, the state’s barrister Niall Storan BL had argued that the sisters’ evidence had been solid and compelling and had withstood cross-examination.

The defence, led by Kathleen Leader SC, had suggested that the two complainants had felt hard done by the adults in their lives and had made things up.

The defence highlighted inconsistencies in evidence. Ms Leader sought to cast doubt that the offences could have taken place without raising the attention of others, due to the size of the family home. The defence further argued that there was a general timeframe for the offences and an absence of specificity.

The jury had been told that a predecessor of Tusla had made a referral of allegations to An Garda Síochána in Carlow in 1993, but it had not led to a prosecution. Formal complaints were first made to gardaí by the sisters in 2016.

The sisters had given evidence that they had outlined the abuse to a social worker and a foster parent after being taken into care. However, neither the social worker nor the foster parent were available to give evidence during the trial. The two individuals had given statements to gardaí that they could not recall the allegations being made to them.

While charging the jury and providing a summary of the evidence, Judge O’Kelly had urged jurors to be cold and forensic in reaching their decision. Judge O’Kelly noted that, due to the passage of time, some conflicts of evidence could not be explored and the jury should bear that in mind.

The jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts on all 16 charges after almost four hours of deliberation on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. The two sisters broke down when the verdicts were delivered.

The defendant was taken into custody despite a request for bail. Judge O’Kelly said he noted in a garda interview that men had attacked the defendant’s home. He said the defendant’s status had changed as he was now a convicted sex offender and remanded him in custody. Victim impact statements were requested by the judge.

The defendant will next appear in Carlow Circuit Court on 16 May by video link for a sentencing date to be arranged.

The judge thanked the jurors for their work and excused them from jury service for six years. Mr Storan was instructed by state solicitor Sandra Mahon. Ms Leader was instructed by Farrell McElwee Solicitors.

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