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Five family members have been convicted of dozens of offences related to the sexual abuse of four child relatives
Five family members have been convicted of dozens of offences related to the sexual abuse of four child relatives following a Central Criminal Court trial.
The jury in the trial of four men accused of sexual abuse and one woman accused of assisting one of them returned the verdicts today after seven-and-a-half hours of deliberations.
A 66-year-old man and his three sons, aged 38, 40 and 41, were all charged with numerous counts of sexually abusing four family members, who were all children at the time.
The 63-year-old wife of the oldest man was also on trial charged with assisting one of her sons who allegedly anally raped her granddaughter and assaulting the same child.
The three-week trial heard that the alleged offences occurred between 1999 and 2005 in various locations around the country. The complainants and the accused are all part of an extended Traveller family.
The four complainants were the oldest couple's daughter, their granddaughter and their two nephews.
The jury found the 66-year-old man guilty of 24 charges including two charges of anally raping his granddaughter and 22 charges against his nephew - 12 charges of anal rape and ten charges of oral rape.
The man had pleaded not guilty to 25 charges. One charge of assaulting his nephew was withdrawn by the trial judge.
The jury found the 41-year-old man guilty of 19 counts of raping his sister, four counts of sexually assaulting her and three counts of orally raping her. He was also found guilty of two charges of anally raping his niece and one count of raping her.
He was acquitted of two counts of raping his sister on unknown dates in 2004 and 2005.
The jury found the 38-year-old man guilty on 20 counts of raping his sister, four counts of sexually assaulting her and six counts of oral rape. It acquitted him of two counts of raping his sister. He was also found guilty to two counts of anally raping his niece and two counts of anally raping his male cousin.
The jury found the 40-year-old man guilty of 20 counts of rape, five counts of sexual assault and three counts of oral rape. It acquitted him of three charges of raping his sister on dates between 2004 and 2005.
They found the 63-year-old woman guilty to assisting one of her sons – the 38-year-old man who allegedly anally raped her granddaughter - and one count of assaulting her granddaughter.
Another count of assaulting her nephew was withdrawn by the trial judge. She had pleaded not guilty to the three charges.
The five defendants made no reaction as the verdicts were handed down in court.
Ms Justice Mary Ellen Ring thanked the jurors for their service and excused them from jury duty for 10 years as a mark of the court's appreciation for their work.
She noted this was a “difficult case” and the evidence heard was “not pleasant”. She told jurors the 66-year-old man is currently serving a 16-year sentence for sexually abusing his daughter, who became pregnant with his child when she was just 17.
The judge said the work done by jurors is important and encouraged jurors to “make sure people you know answer their jury service summons, however inconvenient”.
Ms Justice Ring directed the preparation of victim impact statements and a number of reports in relation to some of the defendants. She remanded the 66-year-old man and the 41-year-old man in custody for sentencing.
Ms Justice Ring remanded the remaining three defendants on continuing bail. She directed the 38-year-old man and 40-year-old man to sign on at their local garda station four days a week.
Justice Ring directed these three defendants to have no contact directly or indirectly with the complainants. She adjourned the matter to July 17 for mention, when a date for sentence hearing will be confirmed.
Over the course of three weeks, a Central Criminal Court trial heard “harrowing” evidence of “gratuitous sexual violence” against four child members of an extended family.
Opening the trial earlier this month (MAY) prosecuting barrister Shane Costelloe SC warned the jury it would hear evidence that was both “unsettling and unsavoury”.
Closing the trial three weeks later, he said the jury must decide if the trial had been unsettling and unsavoury because four complainants had come to court and told a “pack of lies” about their childhood, or whether it was - as the prosecution maintained - “unsettling and unsavoury that four children were sexually abused in the manner in which they have alleged”.
The jury decided it was the latter, vindicating the accounts of the now adult victims.
There were 126 counts on the indictment – later reduced to 124 - and nine members of an extended family involved in the case. The abuse was alleged to have occurred on dates between 1999 and 2005 in various locations around the country, with the jury being told the family was part of the Traveller community.
The jury returned guilty verdicts on 117 out of the 124 counts after seven hours and 33 minutes of deliberation.
The accused persons
Five family members stood trial in the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. The 66-year-old patriarch of the family was accused of a range of child sexual abuse charges alongside three of his sons – aged 38, 40 and 41.
This man faced 24 charges, while his two older sons faced 31 charges each and his 38-year-old son was charged with 36 offences.
His 63-year-old wife was also on trial accused of assaulting one of her granddaughters and of assisting one of her sons after he allegedly anally raped the same girl. The prosecution alleged she assisted her son by providing the girl with an adult diaper in the wake of the assault and prevented her from going home and telling her parents what had happened.
Each of the accused, who can't be named to protect the identity of the complainants, denied all of the charges against them.
The 66-year-old man is currently serving a 16-year sentence for sexually abusing his daughter who became pregnant with his child when she was just 17. This baby was brought up by her grandparents as their own.
The man's wife told gardaí she didn't know her husband was the father of her daughter's child until she was given DNA results.
The jury was made aware of the sexual abuse of the father against his daughter, now aged 36, who was also a complainant in this case. In this trial, it was alleged she had also been sexually assaulted and raped by her three brothers over a prolonged period of time.
The second female complainant (30) was a granddaughter of the husband and wife – not the same child who was conceived as a result of the patriarch's abuse.
She alleged she had been sexually abused on two to three occasions by her grandfather, her 41-year-old uncle and her 38-year-old uncle. It was also alleged her grandmother physically assaulted her once.
The two male complainants in the case were nephews of the husband and wife. The court heard these two brothers were fostered by their aunt and uncle when they were children.
The 33-year-old nephew alleged he was repeatedly sexually abused by his uncle – the 66-year-old man. An assault charge against his aunt – the 63-year-old woman – was withdrawn by direction of the trial judge.
His 30-year-old brother alleged he was anally raped on two occasions by his cousin – the 38-year-old man.
Aside from the alleged sexual abuse, the complainants described difficult childhoods, involving crowded and cold living conditions in caravans, begging for food, living on the sides of roads and moving around the country – often at the behest of local councils or gardaí.
It was, one defence barrister said, “an insight into life in the Traveller community” in Ireland in the mid-2000s.
The prosecution case
In his closing speech to the jury, Mr Costelloe said the children were “treated like dogs” - as one of the complainants expressed it - and had grown up in an environment where they were sexually abused by their family members.
He said the case boiled down to whether the jury was satisfied with the veracity of the complainants and the evidence they gave. He urged them to recall the demeanour of each complainant as they described the alleged events while in the witness box.
He asked the jury to recall the little details that the complainants described – the hard gravel under the knees of one of the girls as she was abused, the bloodied shorts of one of the little boys. “It's hard to find a more harrowing account,” he said.
Mr Costelloe described how the complainants described being beaten as children with a chimney cleaning stick referred to during the trial as a “machine stick”. “It was a feature of the control, dominance and abuse – physical abuse – that was going on at the time,” he said.
The defence was critical of the lack of detail in the case, but Mr Costelloe submitted that these were adults trying to recall what happened to them when they were children. He said one of the complainants had put it eloquently when she said: “When you're a child growing up on the side of the road, you can't be expected to take everything in.”
Mr Costelloe urged the jury to bear in mind that the complainants had been children in the Travelling community, who moved around from place to place during their childhood and, as a result, it would be “unfair to hold them to the standard of an adult from the settled community”.
“These were children, Traveller children, moving around the country, living down country lanes and on the side of roads,” he said. “They did the absolute level best they could.”
In relation to suggestions the complainants were making up the allegations because they were seeking compensation, Mr Costelloe said there was no evidence three of the complainants had made a claim. The court heard the woman who was abused by her father has received compensation.
He said there was “zero evidence” to suggest any of the complainants were “colluding with each other to stitch up these people”.
“They came here and told you the truth,” he said. “They have nothing to gain from it...You should be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt the prosecution has proven the acts took place and you should be satisfied you can convict the accused on each of the relevant counts.”
The defence case
In their closing speeches to the jury, the five defence barristers were critical of what they said was a lack of detail in the prosecution case and in particular the timeline of the case, which in many incidents they said simply didn't add up, was “not understandable” and “mismatched”.
The jury was told it could not fill in the “gaps” in the prosecution case and that, even if it felt the allegations had a “ring of truth” to them, this was not enough upon which to build a conviction.
Michael Bowman SC, defending the 66-year-old patriarch, said the case involved allegations of “gratuitous sexual violence”. But he said the prosecution had “abandoned its search for detail in the case”, in particular in relation to the 33-year-old nephew, and that the defence had instead had to establish a timeline of events relating to this complainant.
Using old care records, the defence asserted this nephew was not living with the uncle and aunt at the time he said the first incidence of abuse occurred and, as a result, could not have been further abused two to three times a week by his uncle, as alleged. The timeline was “entirely inconsistent” and the nephew's evidence was given in “general, vague and non-specific terms”, the jury was told.
John McGowan SC, representing the 41-year-old man, said there were a number of inconsistencies in the case and the complainants contradicted themselves and each other. In relation to the 36-year-old woman's allegations against her brother, he said there was evidence the accused man was not living with the family at the relevant time.
Mr McGowan said he was not criticising the prosecution nor the investigating gardaí, whom he said carried out an extensive investigation.
“It's a criticism of the evidence given by the complainants,” he said. “It can't be explained away by saying they were children on the side of the road. They are not children now.”
Ciaran O'Loughlin SC, defending the 40-year-old man, said the evidence of his client's sister was “fundamentally contradictory” and that the man was no longer living with her family during the relevant period.
He said he did not believe the sister had deliberately lied or misled the jury. He said it was possible she was looking back on “childish horseplay” with her siblings, which had then “morphed in her mind into this gross abuse over a number of years”.
Dominic McGinn SC, defending the 38-year-old man, said it was a difficult case involving a “traumatic upbringing”, according to the complainants. But he said the allegations were “vague” and none of the complainants were able to give accurate details about the incidences of abuse.
In relation to the sister, he noted she had placed the allegations against her brother as occurring from between the ages of 14 or 15 to when she was about 16. But Mr McGinn submitted a number of counts on the indictment against this man fell outside of this date range.
He noted that three witnesses – a neighbour, a local garda and a social worker – had placed the family as only coming to live in one particular site in about 2005 or 2006, but a number of allegations were alleged to have taken place at this location a number of years earlier.
“What is in the charge sheet is not the same as the evidence, and you're obliged to return verdicts in accordance with the evidence,” Mr McGinn said.
Paul Murray SC, defending the 63-year-old woman, said the prosecution had tried to paint a bad picture of his client, but a social worker who worked with the family had not given any evidence of witnessing alcohol abuse, physical abuse or neglect.
Mr Murray said his client had no history of previous convictions, had raised a large family and had been entrusted with rearing foster children.
“Ultimately, it's a matter for you to determine whether my client has committed any offence and whether at this stage in her life, entering her 64th year and having regard to her history...she deserves a verdict of guilty,” he said.