A Dublin man has been acquitted on charges of abusing his two nieces in the 1970s.
The 62-year-old man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had denied molesting one niece from when she eight years old and up to the age of 12. He also denied molesting the younger sister when she was aged between five and seven.
The defendant had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 10 counts of indecently assaulting one niece at his then address and in other locations in Dublin on dates between January 4, 1972 and January 3, 1979.
He had also pleaded not guilty to two counts of indecently assaulting the younger niece at his then address and in a car in Dublin on dates between November 6, 1975 and November 5, 1977.
On the fifth day of the trial, the jury returned verdicts of not guilty on seven counts after deliberating for five hours and 32 minutes. They failed to reach a verdict on three counts relating to the alleged assaults on the older sister.
Judge Sinéad Ní Chúlacháin had earlier directed that the jury return verdicts of not guilty on two of the counts relating to alleged assaults on the older sister.
Judge Ní Chúlacháin thanked the jury for doing their civic duty amid the “anxiety of the Covid situation”. She remarked that this was the first time in Irish history a jury with a deaf member has returned a verdict.
She remanded the man on continuing bail and adjourned the matter for mention in relation to the three outstanding charges on October 12, next.
In his closing speech to the jury, Philip Rahn BL prosecuting, said that we have learned as a society over the last 30 years that these type of offences frequently happen in secret.
Mr Rahn said we have learned as a society that people may not be able to make a complaint right away and that children may be confused as to what happened.
In his closing speech to the jury, Paul Greene SC, defending, told them that they had to exercise a level of caution as the complaints were uncorroborated, in that there was no independent evidence such as eye witnesses or semen.
Mr Greene also noted the lapse of time since the alleged offences and told the jury that his client was a man of good character with no previous convictions.
During the trial, the older sister gave evidence that while she was visiting her grandmother's house, her uncle would bring her up into the loft of a hay barn of an adjoining farm. She said her uncle would pull up the ladder so that she had no way to get back down.
She said the man would touch her privates over her clothes and would “rub up against” her. She said she did not now how many times this occurred, but that it was definitely more than once and occurred maybe three or four times.
The older sister said the accused gave her lifts on a motorbike when she was aged around eight or 12. She said he told her to put her hands down his trousers or she would fall off and that if she refused he would wobble the bike.
She said he took her for driving lessons in a car in the Dublin Mountains during which she would have to sit on his knee and steer the wheel. She said that her uncle's trousers would be “open” and on the final occasion his penis was “out”.
The older sister said that on the final such occasion she said she did not want do it anymore and tried to get out of the car. She said that when she tried to leave the car, her uncle said that if she got out of the car he would shoot her.
The younger sister gave evidence that when she was aged five or six, her uncle told her he had kittens to show her and brought her into a wooded area.
She said the next thing she remembered was lying on the ground with her underwear pulled down. She said her uncle was above her and had an erection.
The younger sister said her uncle said, “you can touch it if you like” and she said no. She said she did not remember much else except that when she returned home she told her mother that her uncle brought her to see kittens and that there were not any kittens.
She said that when she was aged six or seven she fell asleep while travelling in a car with her uncle and when she woke up the car was pulled over. She said her skirt was hoisted up and her uncle was wiping her legs with a tissue.
The younger sister said her uncle told her that the window was slightly open and bird spit had got on her legs. She said that as she got older she realised that it was sperm rather than bird spit.