A serving garda has been acquitted of sexually abusing a child his mother was minding 40 years ago.
The jury at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial heard that the allegation first came to light after the complainant saw the garda on RTE's Crimecall programme.
He recognised the garda as the son of a woman who had minded him for a few years when he was a child. The complainant, now aged 46, went to gardaí and alleged that this man had sexually assaulted him on three occasions when he was around 6 or 7 years old.
The 56-year-old man, who can't be named for legal reasons, pleaded not guilty to three counts of indecently assaulting the boy at a Dublin address and in a green area between April 1979 and May 1982. He was aged between 14 and 17 at the time.
The jury of nine men and three women returned not guilty verdicts on all three counts on Thursday following a two-week trial that was held in Croke Park.
The prosecution case was that the accused indecently assaulted the boy in his bedroom on two occasions by touching his penis.
They alleged that on a third occasion, the accused called to the boy's house on his bike, went for a cycle with the boy and bought him a bar of chocolate before indecently assaulting him in a bush in a green area.
During the trial, the accused man took the stand and repeatedly denied he had ever sexually abused the complainant or that he ever called to the boy's house. “That never happened,” he told the jury. “I never touched that child.”
The defence submitted there were “frailties, inconsistencies and contradictions” in the case, including the layout and appearance of the bedroom the complainant was allegedly abused in, which they submitted resembled the boy's own childhood bedroom.
The defence also pointed to a number of childminders who minded the boy shortly after the accused man's mother, including one childminder who was let go because she was letting “undesirable” people into the boy's house.
The trial heard that the complainant “blocked out” the memories of the alleged abuse for a number of years until 1994, when he said he encountered the accused man – by then a garda - while he was messing about with friends one night in the city centre. He recognised the garda, who moved the man and his friends on, and then remembered the alleged abuse, the court heard.
Years later, the complainant was watching Crimecall when the accused man appeared as part of his work.
In his closing speech to the jury, Eoghan Cole BL, prosecuting, said the complainant was “upset and angry” to see the accused man in this role. He went to gardaí with the allegations shortly afterwards.
Mr Cole submitted the complainant gave “clear and compelling evidence” of the alleged abuse and was “unshaken in the core elements of his testimony”.
Defence barrister, Sean Guerin SC, told the jury there were “ample contradictions” in the case. He pointed to the fact that this was a “very old case” in which “memories fade and evidence can be lost”.
He said the complainant forgot about the alleged abuse for a decade, before he met the accused man in a “drunken and fleeting encounter” in the city centre in 1994.
Mr Guerin said the complainant's memory of the abuse occurring in a room containing one set of bunk beds and a single bed was significant. The court heard there were two sets of bunk beds in the room.
The complainant described lying on his back on his alleged abuser's chest, looking at the ceiling as he was sexually assaulted. Mr Guerin submitted this could not have occurred in the accused man's bedroom in this case. “This one fact alone is capable of giving rise to reasonable doubt,” he said.
He pointed to the fact that after the childminding arrangement with the accused man's mother ended, the complainant and his siblings were minded by another childminder in their own home. The court heard she was letting “unsuitable people” into the house, of whom the complainant's mother disapproved, Mr Guerin said.
“If we don't know who these unsuitable people were coming to the house, how can you establish beyond reasonable doubt that what (the complainant) described happened in his own room?” Mr Guerin said.
The complainant did not give a physical description of his alleged abuser, and also confused a couple of his brothers, the defence said. “Identification is a real issue in this case,” Mr Guerin said.
Judge Karen O'Connor thanked the jury for their service. They deliberated for four hours and 18 minutes before returning the verdicts.