A Galway man has had his conviction for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl more than a decade ago has been declared a miscarriage of justice.
Today the Court of Criminal Appeal made the declaration that Michael Fechin Hannon's 1999 conviction for the assault against the girl, Una Hardester, was a miscarriage following her admission, some eight years later, that she, by herself, had made up the allegation.
The three judge CCA, of Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, sitting with Mr Justice Daniel Herbert and Mr Justice John MacMenamin made the declaration in what was described as an "alarming and disturbing case".
Mr Hannon of Attymon, Athenry Co Galway, but originally from the Clifden area who is now in his mid thirties, received a suspended four year prison sentence at Galway Circuit Court after being found guilty by a jury of sexually assaulting and of assaulting Una Hardester near her home in the Clifden area of Co Galway in January 1997. He has always vehemently denied the charges against him.
Speaking outside the court Mr Hannon said he "always maintained my innocence of the crime of which he was convicted.
I am very pleased and relieved that my conviction has been quashed and that the court has confirmed I suffered a miscarriage of justice."
"The day has long been coming," he added. The last 10 years, he added, had been difficult for his family and they had to live with "the stigma" of a conviction for something he did not do.
Mr Hannon said that while the DPP had not opposed his conviction he was "dissappointed" that the DPP "had fully resisted" his application to have his conviction declared a miscarriage of justice.
"No state agency or department has ever apologised or expressed regret for what happened to me," he said, adding that he now hopes to get on with his life.