Fiancée makes call for end to trials by jury

THE fiancée of a convicted sex offender yesterday called for a change in the system under which people charged with serious sex offences are tried.

Michelle O’Sullivan, who got engaged to Danny Foley last month, said Ireland was one of the few countries where such accused people were tried by jury.

While conceding that she did not know much about the law, she felt it would be better to have trials by a court made up of three expert judges rather than by a jury of lay people who knew little about the law.

Earlier this week, Danny Foley, 35, of Meen, Listowel, was given a seven-year sentence with the last two suspended at the Circuit Criminal Court, in Tralee, after being found guilty by a jury of sexually assaulting a woman in Listowel, on June 15, 2008.

The jury of 10 men and two women returned a unanimous verdict.

Ms O’Sullivan also said she hoped the case would not dissuade other alleged victims of sexual assault from coming forward.

Also, the woman in the case should not be shunned in the community, she told Radio Kerry.

The Kerry Rape Crisis Centre has said the woman had to read her victim impact statement to a “courtroom filled with hostility towards her”.

Labour health spokeswoman Jan O’Sullivan hopes to raise the issue in the Dáil. She said the handshaking incident was shameful and indicated there were some people who were still not prepared to treat sexual crimes with the seriousness they merited.

“I am sure that the majority of decent people of Listowel were as repulsed as the rest of the country at this show of support,” Deputy O’Sullivan said.

“We already know that many victims are reluctant to report rapes because going to court can be such an ordeal.

“There is a danger that what happened in the courtroom in Tralee will make victims even more fearful. People who are convicted of serious sexual offences should be shunned and not treated as some sort of victim, or even a hero,” she said.


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