Lawyers for a Donegal man jailed for indecently assaulting a babysitter almost 40 years ago have claimed the jury that convicted him were “pressurised” into returning a guilty verdict on a Friday evening when weather warnings were in place.
Patrick Patton (aged 65), of Cashelard, Ballyshannon, had pleaded not guilty to two counts of indecently assaulting the then 14-year-old babysitter in his home in July 1980. He pleaded not guilty to a third count of indecently assaulting another young female between June 1981 and August 1982.
A jury at Donegal Circuit Criminal unanimously found Patton not guilty on counts two and three but returned a 10-2 majority verdict in respect of count one, following a four-day trial. He was accordingly sentenced to 14 months imprisonment by Judge John Aylmer on April 4, 2019.
Patton moved to appeal his conviction today in the Court of Appeal where judgment was reserved.
His barrister, Brian McCartney SC, submitted that the jury had been “pressurised” to return a guilty verdict on count one, after unanimously finding Patton not guilty on counts two and three.
It was a Friday evening, there were “atrocious” weather conditions in Donegal at the time, and the jury returned “with their coats on” to deliver acquittals in respect of the two counts.
He said trial judge then told the jury to “persevere” in respect of count one. They retired again at 5.37pm and were given the option of returning a majority verdict at 6.06pm. They returned again “with their coats on” at 6.43pm with a 10-2 majority guilty verdict.
Mr McCartney said the jury had been assured earlier that they would be expected to sit between 10.30am and 4pm each day. He said the foreman of the jury had earlier asked about “shiftworkers” and whether they were required to work in the evenings after court.
This, combined with “shortcomings” in the trial judge’s summarisation of the defence case, meant Patton’s trial was unfair and unsatisfactory, Mr McCartney submitted.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Patricia McLaughlin BL, said the trial judge had advised the jury that it was a “little premature” to have their coats on. She said it wasn’t unusual for a trial to finish on a Friday and the jury themselves did not express any concern about sitting late.
Ms McLaughlin said any argument that they were stressed by weather conditions or working hours was “speculative”.
President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Michael Peart and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would reserve its judgment.