Priest refused Supreme Court appeal over rape conviction

The Court of Criminal Appeal has dismissed a Co Donegal priest's bid to have his appeal against his conviction for raping a teenage parishioner in a church sacristy more than 20 years ago determined by the Supreme Court

The three judge Court today ruled that Fr Daniel Doherty (aged 49) Derriscleigh, Carrigart to have his appeal heard by the Supreme Court because it did not raise an important point of law of exceptional public importance.

Doherty submitted that his case has raised a number of points of law, including the question of the admissibility of statements in a criminal trial that do not comply with the requirements of Section 21 of the Criminal Justice Act.

Further points raised include if a judge has a duty to intervene in a criminal trial when it appears inadmissible material is being introduced, and whether lawyers have a duty to tender only evidence that satisfies the legal criteria for admissibility.

The CCA comprised of Ms Justice Fidelma Macken, presiding, sitting with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards said that it was not satisfied that the points raised by Doherty amounted "to points of law of exceptional public importance".

They were matters while of substance were very much specific to what Ms Justice Macken described as "an unusual case."

Earlier this year the CCA dismissed Doherty's appeal against his conviction on four charges, two of rape and two of indecent assault.

Doherty was found guilty at the Central Criminal Court in 2006 of twice raping the then 13-year-old girl in the sacristy on dates in 1985 and of indecently assaulting her in the parochial house in 1985 and in his car on a date in December 1984. Doherty received a seven-year prison sentence and was certified to be registered as a sex offender.

The woman first made her allegations formally in a letter to the Bishop of Raphoe, Dr Séamus Hegarty, in 2003 and that led to a Garda investigation and prosecution. During the 1980s, a complaint made to her teachers did not result either in a proper investigation by the school and gardaí were not contacted until she made her formal allegations 18 years later.

Doherty, who denied all the charges, appealed against his conviction.

In the appeal, Doherty argued that certain evidence should not have been put before the jury was it was highly prejudicial to his defence. He also argued the trial judge's charge to the jury at his trial in the Central Criminal Court was flawed.

Doherty further argued his lawyers at his trial had generally failed to protect his interest.

Dismissing the appeal the CCA was satisfied Doherty had established no ground which would render his conviction unsafe.

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