Victim thought abuse was normal until she watched TV programme and realised 'this didn't happen to everybody'

Victim thought abuse was normal until she watched TV programme and realised 'this didn't happen to everybody'

A woman thought the sexual abuse inflicted on her by her uncle was normal until she watched a television programme and realised “this didn't happen to everybody”.

Her uncle, whose details cannot be published to protect her identity, had an appeal against conviction dismissed “in its entirety” today.

The Tipperary man had pleaded not guilty to eight counts of indecent assault and three counts or rape at various locations on dates between May 1986 and August 1988 when she was aged between seven and nine and he was in his mid to late forties.

He was unanimously found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan on October 23, 2015.

Dismissing the man's appeal today, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said that during the trial, the man's barrister sought an explanation from the complainant as to why she delayed the making of a complaint for so many years.

She answered: “Because it was family, mainly, and first of all, I did not realise there was anything wrong. I thought it was.. this was normal. In my teenage years I remember seeing on maybe a TV programme that this was sexual abuse, that this wasn't, that this didn't happen to everybody and that the first time I really realised that it was wrong but I don't know how to go about telling anybody. I told a friend of mine during my school years.

The man's barrister, Paul Greene SC, submitted that the final sentence was inadmissible because it offended the rule against self corroboration.

It had been agreed before the trial that references to what might have been said to her friend would not be disclosed, Mr Justice Mahon said.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions accepted that the reference to telling one of her school friends was inadmissible. Counsel said that when the complainant had uttered those words, she “closed her down” and “moved on to another question and nothing more was said about that”.

While greater care may have been taken by the prosecution in advance of the complainant giving evidence to emphasis to her that she should not make any reference to speaking to school friends about her sexual abuse, Mr Justice Mahon said the inadmissible evidence could almost be said to have “slipped out in passing”.

The evidence was in no way pursued, debated or elaborated upon before the jury by either side.

Furthermore it emerged at a very early stage in the trial, long before the judge's charge to the jury, the judge said.

Any prejudicial effect from the words spoken is likely to have been extremely limited in all the circumstances.

It probably “evaporated” in the face of the clear corroboration warning given by the judge and in particular, the judges direction that a complainant could not corroborate her own evidence.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said the appeal was dismissed.

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