NI man who served seven-year sentence has sex convictions quashed
A Co Antrim pensioner jailed for raping his step-daughter is to have his convictions quashed, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Judges ruled on Friday that flawed directions to the jury rendered the guilty verdict unsafe, and refused to consider putting the 69-year-old man through a re-trial.
The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, served a seven-year sentence after a 2006 trial.
A complaint had first been made against him in 1997, years after the abuse he was accused of.
It centred on putting a hand up a nightie.
Rape was not mentioned at the time.
The man failed in his first challenge to the convictions before his case was referred back to the Court of Appeal by a body which examines potential miscarriages of justice.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) identified grounds involving the trial judge’s handling of complaint evidence and the appellant’s good character.
It was contended that those points cast doubt over the convictions.
Ruling on the appeal, Lord Justice Deeny pointed out how a complaint made in 1997 was about putting a hand up the alleged victim’s nightie.
But in 2005 the allegation involved actual rape.
“The jury needed to consider whether the omission of the rape allegation in the complaint of February 1997 called into question the truth or reliability of that alation,” he said.
“The importance from the defence point of view of that difference does not seem to have been brought to the attention of the jury.”
An issue was also raised about the absence of any direction that the complaint evidence is not independence.
Quashing both convictions, Lord Justice Deeny confirmed: “The court concludes that it has a significant sense of unease about the safety of these verdicts.”
Prosecution counsel requested time to consider the issue of a possible re-trial.
Rejecting that submission, however, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “Unless there was some extraordinary reason I don’t think we could envisage the possibility of putting this man through a trial again having served a sentence.”
The appellant declined to comment following the verdict.
But his solicitor, Charlene Dempsey of Higgins Hollywood Deazley law firm, said he had been fully vindicated by the outcome.
Ms Dempsey, who has now had two cases successfully referred back by the CCRC, added: “Our client waited a number of years for this opportunity to clear his name.
“This case also highlights the difficulties those charged with historic sexual offences have in defending allegations that can go back many years.”