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Former GAA coach jailed for abusing five boys in the 1980s has conviction upheld

Court of Appeal

A former GAA coach jailed for sexually abusing five boys in the 1980s has had his conviction upheld by the Court of Appeal.

A former GAA coach jailed for sexually abusing five boys in the 1980s has had his conviction upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Ronan McCormack (75), of Cuppanagh, Cloonloo, Co Sligo, was found guilty by a jury at Sligo Circuit Criminal Court of 53 counts of indecently assaulting five boys aged between 10 and 13 at various locations between October 1981 and August 1986. He had denied the charges. Mr McCormack was a former coach of the under 12s team of Eastern Harps GAA.

McCormack was sentenced to seven years and 10 months imprisonment with the final two years suspended by Judge Petria McDonnell on July 25, 2014.

The Court of Appeal upheld his conviction Thursday holding that the victims' evidence came across as "powerful and indeed compelling”.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the court agreed that the treatment by the trial judge of system evidence and the related issue of corroboration was “sub-optimal”.

The question, however, was how significant that was.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court was stuck by the fact that, although there were lengthy requisitions, no issue was raised as to the adequacy or appropriateness of what was said in this regard.

This was “particularly significant” where the trial judge had initiated a debate on these issues before the speeches and charge.

Had there not been a change of legal team post conviction, the lawyers presenting the appeal would “certainly have been questioned as to why, if the charge was defective, that issue was not raised with the trial judge”.

Mr Justice Birmingham said certain remarks by the trial judge suggested that the judge was “confused or certainly was blurring two distinct legal issues” - the issue of whether corroboration was required as a matter of law and the issue of whether the judge should give a corroboration warning.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the three-judge court had read the evidence of the complainants and endorsed what the trial judge had to say about the fact that certain similarities were striking.

“Overall, the impression the Court (of Appeal) is left with is that this was a particularly strong case.”

He said the complainant's evidence came “across as powerful and indeed compelling”.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court was not prepared to uphold McCormack's grounds of appeal and the appeal against conviction was therefore dismissed.

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