The Court of Appeal has upheld a stable owner’s conviction for raping and sexually assaulting a teenage girl.
Ger Hehir, aged 59, with a last address at Drumcavan, Ruan, Co Clare, had pleaded not guilty to raping the girl and four counts of sexually assaulting her at his home and at horse events around the country on dates between 2010 and 2013.
In her victim impact statement the woman, now in her 20s, said that she had “lived a happy and enjoyable life” before Hehir’s abuse and manipulation.
“From a girl who had such an amazing life, you ruined everything,” she told Hehir.
Hehir was found guilty by a Central Criminal Court jury following a seven-day retrial and was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended on January 25, 2019.
In November last year, Hehir brought an appeal against his conviction which focused on the trial judge’s failure to give the jury a warning on the dangers of convicting on uncorroborated evidence as well as “confusion over the issue of consent”.
Counsel Caroline Biggs submitted that the trial judge had “muddied the waters” on issues relating to consent.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Eilis Brennan, said the victim’s state of mind was never an issue in the case. Her evidence was that she did not consent and the defence case was that “none of these things ever happened”.
She said Hehir used to collect the teenage girl from school, offer her cigarettes and drink. If consent was in the case, it was never explicitly propositioned during the trial, she said.
Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, returning an electronic judgement yesterday, said the Court of Appeal accepted that the trial judge’s charge to the jury with regard to the issue of consent “could not be described as a model of clarity”.
However, he said that anyone hearing the judge’s charge and recharge, following a defence requisition, could be left in no doubt that the complainant was saying that sexual activity had occurred to which she had not consented, while the defence’s case was that no such activity had ever occurred.
Mr Justice McCarthy said the court did not believe that there was any confusion as to the central issues to be decided by the jury, nor was there any scope for confusion as to the constituent elements of the offences on the indictment.
He said the court found the proposition that the jury might have been confused or misled or that there was any deficiency in the charge under this ground was unfounded.
With regard to the judge’s decision not to give a corroboration warning, Mr Justice McCarthy said it was fully open to the judge to exercise his discretion in the way he did and the court was “not at all surprised” he was not disposed to give such a warning to the jury.
Mr Justice McCarthy, sitting with president of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, said the court was not persuaded that the trial was unsatisfactory or the verdict unsafe and would accordingly dismiss the appeal.