Convicted child abuser released on bail

A convicted Waterford child abuser has been released on bail pending an appeal against his four-year sentence.

The Court of Criminal Appeal today granted bail to Maurice Colbert (aged 59) who, in July 2011, was jailed for four years by Judge Yvonne Murphy after a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury convicted him on 10 counts and acquitted him on two counts of sexual assault following a seven-day trial.

Colbert, of Coolbagh, Clashmore, had pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of sexually assaulting the girl at locations in Co Waterford on dates between March 1991 and September 1995.

Judge Murphy ordered that the sentence run concurrently from July 2011 to an eight-year sentence imposed on Colbert in February 2010 on counts relating to the alleged rape and sexual assault of another girl, which were said to have occurred at his home between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1997.

In October 2011, the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed the latter conviction of Colbert, who had denied all counts.

The appeal court overturned Colbert’s conviction and ordered a retrial having found that an element of the judge’s charge to the jury was inadequate and rendered the verdict unsafe and unsatisfactory.

The Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently indicated that it would enter a “nolle prosequi”, in other words not proceed with the retrial of Colbert on the 2010 counts.

Counsel for the applicant, Mr Colman Fitzgerald SC, today told the court that Colbert’s appeal would focus on the contention that his four-year sentence should be backdated to February 5, 2010 when he first went in to custody on the eventually quashed counts.

He said that if Colbert was to serve his sentence from July 2011 he would not be released until next year but if his sentence was backdated to February 2010 he would, with normal remission of 25%, be released this week.

Mr Fitzgerald told the court that Colbert should have been sentenced as a man with no previous convictions.

Mr Justice Liam McKechnie, presiding at the Court of Criminal Appeal, said the court found that Judge Murphy was “quite correct” in her approach to sentencing in July 2011, as at the time Colbert’s conviction was safe and he was before the court as a man with previous convictions.

He said the factual foundation on which the trial court proceeded to sentence was valid and could not be described as an error in principle.

However, Mr Justice McKechnie said that “as a matter of high probability” the sentence would have begun from the date the accused entered custody on February 5, 2010 had those previous convictions not been taken in to account.

Mr Justice McKechnie said the court found that Colbert should therefore be admitted to bail on the same terms as were previously granted pending the hearing of his appeal.

Colbert entered a bond in front of the appeal court registrar and was released from custody shortly afterwards.

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