Retired Central Bank official walks free after child porn conviction quashed

A retired Central Bank administrator who was jailed for the possession of hundreds of thousands of child porn images and videos has walked free from court after his conviction was quashed because of a misdated warrant.

The Court of Criminal Appeal today overturned the conviction of Raphael Farina (aged 67) after it found that a warrant used to search his home was dated incorrectly and consequently did not permit entry to his apartment in Dublin city centre.

Mr Farina of Spranger’s Yard, Crow Street, Temple Bar, had pleaded not guilty to three counts of possession of child pornography at his home on June 6, 2007.

He was jailed for four years and fined €5,000 by Judge Patricia Ryan in February 2011 after he was found guilty of having the material by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury.

Farina’s defence counsel did not contest any of the evidence against him during the trial and told the judge they were only contesting the validity of the search warrant used by gardaí.

Gardaí had called to Farina’s home with a search warrant as part of an international investigation into child pornography led by the Bavarian state police in Germany.

The trial heard that Farina was presented with the warrant and invited gardaí into his home where he allegedly made a statement admitting to possession of the material.

Mr Farina, who has no previous convictions, had worked in the Central Bank as a senior administrative officer from the early 1960s and retired from his job the day after he was arrested by gardaí.

Moving the appeal, Ms Aileen Donnelly SC told the court that a combination of flaws in the warrant obtained to search Mr Farina’s home rendered it invalid in law and incapable of permitting entry to the apartment.

She said that among the five flaws were a misspelling of Mr Farina’s address as “Springer’s Yard”, an absence of information regarding the issuing District Court area and number and a misdating of the warrant as May 6 2007, when it had actually been issued on June 6, 2007.

Counsel said the court had to be “vigilant” in ensuring warrant conditions were “strictly met” and there should not be an “it doesn’t matter” attitude.

Ms Donnelly said that if the court found the warrant was acceptable, then it was acceptable for a court to admit evidence where there has been much disregard for the detail of the law.

She submitted that if the entry to the apartment was unlawful it was a violation of Mr Farina’s constitutional rights and gardaí were not entitled to the fruits of that entry, which included evidence of the alleged discovery of child pornography and the alleged statement taken from the accused man.

The appeal court also heard that an alteration was made to the warrant – where a line was placed through the May date – after its execution.

Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, presiding, said that before a warrant to enter a home can be executed the legal requirements must be strictly met.

He said the court found that the defect in the date was fatal to the warrant as the document on its own terms stated that entry was permissible within seven days of May 6, 2007.

Mr Justice O’Donnell said the warrant was meant to be understood in simple terms and must be taken as it would appear when presented to the accused man.

He said the court noted that had the warrant been dated correctly Mr Farina could not have resisted the entry of gardaí and it was a separate offence to resist or obstruct a warrant.

Mr Justice O’Donnell said that as the warrant did not permit entry to Mr Farina’s home it followed that all evidence obtained from the search, including his “comprehensive admissions”, was inadmissible.

He said that the court had not reserved judgement because Mr Farina has been in custody since 2011. No retrial was ordered.

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