Ex-teacher claims Oscar Wilde law discriminatory

A former teacher charged with gross indecency — under the same 19th century law which writer Oscar Wilde was jailed for — claims he is being discriminated against because a woman cannot be charged with the same offence.

The man has brought a High Court challenge to the constitutionality of section 11 of the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act — gross indecency between males in private or public — and for which Wilde received a two year hard labour sentence in 1895.

Although that law was repealed in 1993, the former teacher is alleged to have committed the offences before the new legislation was brought in and is therefore charged under the 1885 Act.

He is accused seven counts of gross indecency between 1978 and 1980 on a then pupil aged 15- to 17-and-a-half in a house in Dublin. He denies the charges.

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He seeks orders stopping his trial in the circuit court on grounds the charges breach laws outlawing gender discrimination and guaranteeing him the right to privacy.

He also claims he will not get a fair trial because of culpable delay in prosecuting him.

The DPP and attorney general deny his rights are being breached and argue it is still an offence to have sex with a child under 17. They also claim he has shown no prejudice to his right to a fair trial from any alleged delay, which is denied.

The man was charged with the offences in November 2013, five years after the complaints against him were first made to gardaí and more than 30 years after the alleged offences, his counsel Hugh Hartnett said.

Counsel said the 1885 offence of gross indecency is vague and uncertain in its remit and contrary to the fundamental principle of legal certainty.

The case continues before Mr Justice Michael Moriarty who said it was an unusual case of significant interest.

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