The judge in the trial of a retired surgeon accused of groping young male patients has told the jury that it would be dangerous to convict on the “uncorroborated evidence” of any of the complainants.
Michael Shine (85) of Wellington Rd. in Dublin has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to eight charges of indecently assaulting five patients at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and at his private clinic, both in Drogheda, Co Louth, on dates between 1964 and 1991.
The jury of four men and eight women began deliberating this afternoon before Judge Cormac Quinn sent the jurors home for the night. Deliberations will resume tomorrow morning.
The five complainants were all teenage boys at the time they allege Dr Shine touched them in the genital areas while treating them for injuries such as cuts to a knee, an injury to a finger and an injured toe.
In his charge to the jury, Judge Quinn said the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused attended to the complainants. Mr Shine denies seeing three of them but accepts he treated two of them.
Judge Quinn said the prosecution must also prove that the alleged actions did take place, were not a bonafide or appropriate medical examination and could be considered indecent. He said that the prosecution must finally prove the accused intended to commit the acts.
Judge Quinn told the jury that corroboration evidence – credible independent evidence of the alleged acts which implicate the accused in those acts – does not exist in relation to any of the complainants.
He warned the jurors: “It is dangerous to convict on the uncorroborated evidence of any of the complainants” but added that they are nevertheless entitled to find the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt once they have taken this warning into account.
“You have to exercise special care on whether you believe each complainant. You have to exercise caution before acting on unsupported evidence,” he said.
He told the jury that it could decide there were similarities in the accounts and evidence of the five complainants. He said the defence position is that the complainants are not independent, may be colluding and are motivated by civil actions.
He said there is an inherent improbability of several persons making up exactly similar stories.
He said the jury must take each count separately but that if it finds Mr Shine guilty beyond reasonable doubt on one count, it can consider it more likely that the account of another complainant of a similar incident is true.
In his closing speech Bernard Condon SC, prosecuting, said there is no evidence to support the suggestion that the complainants came together in some way to make up the allegations.
Hugh Hartnett SC, defending, told the jurors that the prosecution was asking them to accept that medical records had either gone missing or, where they existed and conflicted with a complainant's allegations, were wrong.
Referring to the campaign allegedly “directed against” the accused by Bernadette Sullivan, he said that hindsight over 42 years “in circumstances of a publicity campaign being run...can be a very dangerous thing”
“You can insert yourself into situations that never occurred,” counsel said.
Judge Quinn told the jury that this was “quite an old case” and that the detail that would exist for a more recent complaint is unavailable in cases of historic complaints.
He said if the complaints had been made earlier the accused could possibly have called on witnesses such as other medical staff and could have checked records or his diary.
He said these prospects have diminished or disappeared and the prosecution are not entitled to take advantage of the delay in the case.
“If you have a reasonable doubt in relation to records missing due to the delay, you must give the benefit of the doubt to accused,” he told the jury.
He said in cases with such a delay there is a “special need to exercise caution if you’re minded to convict” because it is “much more difficult for a person to defend themselves against an old complaint”.
“If, notwithstanding this warning, you are convinced of the guilt of the accused, you are entitled to convict. The law does not say that old cases cannot be tried, but it says the accused cannot be disadvantaged because of delay”.