Court quashes conviction of man accused of sex assault on babysitter

The Court of Criminal Appeal has today quashed the conviction of a Dublin man who was accused of sexually assaulting a teenage babysitter and ordered that no retrial take place.

The Court of Criminal Appeal has today quashed the conviction of a Dublin man who was accused of sexually assaulting a teenage babysitter and ordered that no retrial take place.

William Canty (aged 57) was jailed for 18 months by Judge Patrick McCartan in December last year after a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting the then teenage girl at an address in Dublin on a date unknown between December 17, 1995 and May 30, 1997.

The offence was said to have occurred when the complainant was babysitting for Mr Canty, a married father-of-two from Willsbrook Drive, Lucan, after he had left a family function.

At his trial in October 2010, Mr Canty pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of sexual assault against two complainants on dates unknown between April 1992 and May 1997.

The jury were directed by Judge McCartan at the conclusion of the prosecution case to find Mr Canty not guilty on 10 counts.

They acquitted him on two charges, failed to reach a verdict on two other charges and convicted him by majority verdict on the one remaining charge concerning one complainant.

In a written judgment delivered this morning, the Court of Criminal Appeal determined that the verdict of the jury in convicting the applicant on this last remaining count could not be considered safe.

Counsel for the applicant, Ms Aileen Donnelly SC, had submitted that the trial judge erred in principle by failing to accede to a defence request to discharge the jury after directing them to acquit on 10 counts of sexual assault.

Ms Donnelly argued that the evidence given by one of the complainants in relation to those 10 counts was prejudicial and inadmissible.

Presiding judge Mr Justice John Murray said that the jury “at the very least” required a clear and specific direction from the trial judge concerning the status of this evidence and its irrelevance to the count on which they convicted the applicant.

The court found that, while the directions of the trial judge generally were “impeccable”, the absence of a “clear and explicit direction” to the jury on this matter rendered the verdict unsafe.

Mr Justice Murray said that, taking in to consideration the period of time spent by Mr Canty in custody and other factors, the court would not order a retrial.

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