The Court of Appeal has quashed a man’s sex assault conviction and directed a retrial, after it transpired that one of the jurors who convicted him was related to his victim in another case.
The man had gone on trial at a circuit criminal court last year, charged with one count of sexual assault. He was already serving a sentence for defiling a child, an offence to which he had previously pleaded guilty.
The jury in the sex assault trial returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. As the jury members left the courtroom, two relatives of the convicted man approached his legal team and said that one of the jurors was related to the victim in the defilement case. They had had not been present during the trial as it was conducted ‘in camera’ or behind closed doors.
The judge was informed, and he instructed the gardaí to investigate. They did so and confirmed the relationship.
The man’s legal team appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeal yesterday.
Desmond Dockery, defending, submitted that the conviction was unsafe and argued for his client’s right under the constitution to be tried by an unbiased jury.
The State did not argue against the appellant’s submissions, but Patrick Reynolds, prosecuting, submitted that a retrial be ordered if the court decided to quash the conviction.
Mr Justice George Birmingham, presiding with Justice Patrick McCarthy and Justice Isobel Kennedy, described the situation as ‘very unusual’.
They quashed the conviction, directed a retrial and remanded the man in custody to the same circuit court.