The Court of Appeal requires convincing that a man jailed for raping a young woman with Down Syndrome should be granted extra time to appeal his conviction.
Faisal Ellahi (37), originally from Haripur in Pakistan, was found guilty of rape and sexual assault by a jury at the Central Criminal Court following a five-week trial.
Ellahi admitted “sexual contact” with the victim but denied penetrative sex. Giving evidence in his defence, he claimed he didn't know she had a mental impairment and looked “normal” to him. He said people with mental impairments in his native country were kept at home or in hospitals and that they wore name badges to indicate they were disabled.
Sentencing him to 13 years imprisonment in March 2016, Mr Justice Tony Hunt said the “frightening, appalling, disgusting and depraved” offence committed by Ellahi had "demolished" years of work in helping the woman lead an independent life.
The judge complimented the victim's mother on her dignity and fortitude in meeting the case and wished the family well in the future as they seek to restore the woman to her independence.
Ellahi lodged an appeal against his conviction one year and seven months outside of the 28-day limit provided for criminals to lodge an appeal. The Director of Public Prosecutions is opposing his application to extend time.
In seeking extra time to bring an appeal today, Ellahi’s barrister, Brendan Grehan SC, said his client had indicated to his previous legal team an intention to appeal his conviction.
However, he dismissed his previous legal team and spent time “effectively in solitary confinement” - for prison disciplinary reasons, according to the DPP - while trying to contact two different firms of solicitors with a view to representing him in an appeal.
President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said the papers filed by Ellahi “singularly failed to identify any core issue” for a potential appeal.
The grounds referred to conduct and commentary by the trial judge and the decision to rely on evidence being given via video link. One ground referred to “confusion” caused by alternative counts without any explanation. It appeared to have been “conjured up in thin air”, Mr Justice Birmingham said.
Mr Grehan said they were adequate grounds of appeal.
But they were not adequate to justify an extension of time, the judge said. There were “countervailing circumstances” to consider such as the need for finality, especially where the injured party was a woman with Down Syndrome. He said the onus was on Ellahi to show good reason why extra time should be granted.
Mr Grehan said Ellahi was the only one in court who had been present for the trial, because he sacked his previous lawyers, and the court’s own rules denied them access to the transcript.
He said an “unfair burden” was being put on his client. Asking Ellahi to identify specific grounds was unfair when English was not his first language, he said.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Caroline Biggs SC, said the victim was entitled to assume the case had long since completed.
Adjourning the application, Mr Justice Birmingham said the court would allow Ellahi an opportunity to put a further affidavit before the court. There was at least some evidence of an intention to appeal and evidence of attempts made to contact different solicitors’ firms.
He said the court required convincing that there were matters of real substance to be argued.
He said the court would not facilitate the provision of a transcript as it was up to Ellahi to “put his best foot forward”.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the woman was out with her mother that day but that they became separated.
In her interviews, the woman said a man found her on the street and pushed her into a corner before saying “come with me.” She said the man told her he was going to help her before taking her by the hand to a house. “He didn't help me,” she said.
The court heard evidence from 16 women who were approached by Ellahi in the area around the time of the rape. One woman who lived across the road from him said he tried to force his way inside her home after she returned from a night out.
Ellahi gave evidence in his own defence in which he admitted propositioning many women as he walked the streets near his Dublin home. He said he would stop women and ask them to come home with him for “consensual fun”. He said he also used prostitutes.
Ellahi moved to Ireland in 2005 where he found work as a security guard. He was unemployed at the time of the rape and spent his days walking the streets, the court heard.