Jury fails to reach verdict in sexual assault trial

The jury in the trial of a west Donegal man charged with sexually assaulting a teenaged boy failed to reach a verdict after more than two hours of deliberation last night. The accused was released on continuing bail and now must await a decision from the DPP.

The jury in the trial of a west Donegal man charged with sexually assaulting a teenaged boy failed to reach a verdict after more than two hours of deliberation last night. The accused was released on continuing bail and now must await a decision from the DPP.

The jury’s decision followed two days of evidence at Letterkenny Circuit Court this week.

The 43-year-old man had denied sexually assaulting the youth in west Donegal in April 2009. In a first for Letterkenny Circuit Court, the alleged victim gave evidence via video link from Monaghan Court House.

The youth, who is now 17, told the jury of nine men and three women that he was sexually assaulted in the accused’s home after they had spent three days together as part of a group bagging turf.

During the three days the youth said the man had asked him did he drink and could he get him any cannabis. He also asked him had he any “porn” on his phone and the youth showed him some pornography on his phone.

The day after the turf bagging was finished the youth received a call from the accused asking him to come to his home to do some work for which he would pay him 50 euro.

When he arrived there the accused’s mother and a friend who had also been bagging the turf were there but left to go shopping. All three appeared as if they had been drinking, he said. The accused asked the youth to fix the wardrobe in his bedroom. When he was looking at the wardrobe he said he heard breathing behind him and the accused came behind him and pulled down his trousers and underwear, pushed him onto the bed and sexually assaulted him. The youth said the man held him down on the bed and would not let him up. “I tried to fight him off but he was too strong,” he said. When the youth got up he ran out of the house and punched the wall. The friend returned and the boy told him what happened. He said the man “went mad” and started shouting at the defendant. Gardaí were contacted seven days later and the youth made a statement.

Under cross examination from defence barrister, Peter Nolan BL, the teenager said he had been planning to buy an old van from him and fix it up as a “project”.

The friend who made the complaint to gardaí about the incident said the boy told him of this incident and added it also happened to him once before when he was six-years-old. When questioned about this the teenager admitted it was not true and said it as he “panicked” and didn’t want the man to tell the gardaí. The alleged victim denied he made up the allegations of this assault. Mr Nolan asked if him if he was a “fantasist” who was seeking attention at the time. The witness replied he wasn’t and didn’t want anyone to know what happen until the third party asked him about it.

He admitted having pornography stored on his mobile phone and showing it to the accused who had asked him to send it to him but he was unable to do so.

Mr. Nolan asked him if his whole story was a lie that began to “snowball” as more people found out about the allegation but the boy denied this saying only three people new about the alleged sexual assault.

The friend of the accused, who had been staying in a mobile home near the accused’s house, gave evidence that he had met the boy over a number of previous days and when he left the defendants’ house prior to the incident he was a “bubbly, outgoing teenager” but when he returned he said he “knew something was wrong”.

He initially thought the accused had given the boy alcohol or cannabis as he looked like “a rabbit in the headlights” with shock.

When he challenged the man over the incident he said they were “only messing”.

Under cross examination the witness admitted he had a problem with alcohol for 20 years, but said he hadn’t drank that day until he learned of the alleged assault.

When he was told the boy’s allegations of being abused before were false, the witness replied “that’s disappointing” but he added he still believed his version of events of what occurred that day.

He said the accused admitted the assault in front of his mother and him at the time but said they had “no evidence”.

Despite the boy not wanting anyone to know about the alleged incident he said a similar thing happened to him as a boy and was the source of his alcoholism.

“I called the gardaí because I didn’t want it on my conscience,” he told the court.

In statements to gardaí the accused denied the allegation and said he had found the boy masterbating in the hall of his house. He told him to stop it and pushed him, but that they were both laughing when his friend and his mother arrived back. He said he had been drinking whiskey on the day of the assault. The accused also told gardaí he had been abused as a boy.

Prosecution counsel Patricia McLaughlin said the teenager’s account was believable and credible and the actions of the accused were “unacceptable and reprehensible”.

But defence counsel Peter Nolan said the teenager’s story was “a pack of lies” and that there were disagreements about the fundamentals of the accusation.