Catholic priest seeks to halt trial for indecent assault of girl over 40 years ago

Catholic priest seeks to halt trial for indecent assault of girl over 40 years ago
File photo.

A Roman Catholic priest accused of indecently assaulting a young girl over 40 years ago has launched a High Court action aimed at stopping his criminal trial from going ahead.

The accused, who cannot be identified for legal reasons is in his 70s and in poor health. He denies a single charge that he indecently assaulted the girl in the mid-1970s at her home when she was 10 years of age.

The priest, who was known to the complainant’s family, is alleged to have touched the girl under her clothing when she was sitting on his knee while they and several other people were watching a film being shown on a projector.

In his High Court action the priest, who denies the allegation or that the complainant was positioned near him while the film was being shown, seeks an order prohibiting his trial which is currently pending before the Circuit Criminal Court.

If found guilty of the offence the priest faces a maximum of two years in prison.

The priest claims he is prejudiced by an unexplained prosecutorial delay by the complainant making a complaint to the Gardaí.

The complainant made a complaint to the Gardaíin 2015. It is also claimed that the woman made a complaint about the priest to a bishop in 2004, and told her parents about the incident in the 1980s.

He also claims that he cannot get a fair trial because many of the persons who were in the room at the time of alleged assault have died.

Had they been alive, he claims they could have given evidence, which would have assisted his defence, including details about where the complainant was positioned when the film was being shown.

He also seeks declarations that he faces a real risk of an unfair trial if the criminal proceedings against him were to continue and that it would be unjust to put him on trial in respect of the allegation against him.

He further seeks damages for an alleged breach of his constitutional right to an expeditious trial and for an alleged breach of his rights under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Permission to bring the action against the Director of Public Prosecutions was granted, on an ex-parte basis today by Mr Justice Seamus Noonan.

The judge placed a stay on the prosecution pending the outcome of the challenge and adjourned the matter to a date in March.

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