Facebook posts used to clear dentist of sex assault

A DEFENCE solicitor used a woman’s Facebook posts to help clear his dentist client of sexual assault.

Cork-based Frank Buttimer read one of the female complainant’s posts during his cross-examination of her in Cork District Court on Thursday in an attempt to portray her as a reluctant witness.

The Support After Crime victim support group said last night that it is the first time they have seen such an approach in court.

SAC spokeswoman Sally Hanlon said: “If [the complainant] had been aware it was going to be used, she could have been prepared. I would find it a huge invasion of privacy.”

Mr Buttimer was representing dentist John Tait, 58, of Glen House, Upper Rochestown, Cork, who was acquitted of a single charge of sexual assault against a trainee dental nurse after Judge Leo Malone said he had a doubt about the veracity of her evidence.

The woman was visibly upset when Mr Buttimer produced transcripts of her Facebook posts in court.

He told the court that he accessed them just days before through a defence witness who was a Facebook friend and work colleague of the complainant.

In one of her posts the night before the court case, the complainant wrote that she really didn’t want to go to court, but felt it was something she had to do.

Mr Buttimer made reference to other posts and suggested they portrayed her as a reluctant complainant.

The woman said her Facebook posts are private and only meant for friends. But Mr Buttimer said they were public. “Crimes have been solved using Facebook,” he said.

Ms Hanlon, who was supporting the woman in court, said: “You can write something on Facebook when you are quite stressed, but having it read out in court, you can have an entirely different interpretation. If we accept people on Facebook, we are accepting on trust. If you can’t trust somebody, you have nothing.”

* Support After Crime: 021-4320555.


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