Two Laois brothers have been jailed for three years for raping a woman in a hotel, despite a prosecution witness claims that he was put under pressure by gardai when making his statement.
Eamonn (33) of Dunamaise, Stradbally and Seamie Flanagan (40) of Ashley Gardens, Portlaoise continue to deny the offences and have not shown remorse. Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said because of this he could not impose a non-custodial sentence.
The judge said that Irish prisons conditions are overcrowded and “in some cases an affront to human dignity.” Despite this, he imposed three year terms on each man and ordered they be registered as sex offenders.
At a hearing last Monday, defence counsel for Seamie, Ms Pauline Walley SC, said a prosecution witness has since claimed he was put under pressure by gardai to say he saw the men at the door of the room where the rape occurred.
The witness, Mr Daniel Lynch, was a friend of the brothers and had consensual sex with the woman shortly before they are accused of raping her. No DNA from the brothers was found on the woman and CCTV footage showed the rapes occurred in less than three minutes. DNA from the sexual encounter with Mr Lynch was found on her
Following the men’s convictions Mr Lynch claimed that during the investigation he was put under pressure by gardai to make a statement saying the brothers were at the hotel room door when he was leaving. He said this happened in a garda car, parked at the petrol station in Laois.
Ms Walley said when the DPP learned of the allegation, he ordered a report be prepared. She said Mr Lynch was interviewed again and raised doubts that the men were ever in the room with the woman. He also alleged impropriety by the investigating gardai.
Mr Walley said there are “too many troubling aspects to the case” to allow sentencing continue. She said the defence have not been given the DPP’s report as the prosecution claim privilege over it.
“That must be the most fundamental denial of fair procedure”, she told Mr Justice Sheehan.
She also pointed to the facts of the case, saying that the most “startling aspect is that whole incident is supposed to have taken place in two minutes with no DNA left behind.”
Prosecution counsel, Mr Paul Coffey SC, replied that Ms Walley’s points are for the Court of Criminal Appeal and that there is no reason to adjourn sentencing. Mr Justice Sheehan agreed and said the defence issues may be for the CCA but not for the sentencing judge.
Detective Garda Keith Marron told Mr Coffey at the sentincing hearing that Mr Lynch and the brothers met the woman and her friends at a nightclub in the hotel after attending an ABBA tribute concert there. Sometime later Mr Lynch and the victim went to a hotel room together where they had sex.
Det Marron said Mr Lynch then left the room at the same time as Eamonn and Seamie entered it. The woman was still inside and Seamie sat down on the bed beside her, putting his arms around her.
When she rebuffed him, he pushed her back and raped her anally and vaginally. She got up afterwards and Eamonn pushed her back on the bed and raped her again. The detective said “this took a matter of seconds”.
The woman left the room and met her friends before they drove “via an off license” to her friend’s house. The gardai were then called. Gardai called to the hotel room the next morning where they found both men asleep.
They both denied the allegations and said they found the hotel room door open with no one inside.
Gardai later found it was impossible to leave the door open due to its design. The brothers then said they could not remember if they met the woman or Mr Lynch as they entered the room.
Defence counsel for Eamonn, Mr Kenneth Fogarty SC, said both men continued to deny the allegations.
He called a series of character witnesses including a retired garda sergeant, who described the brothers as upstanding members of the community who have good work records and are involved in the GAA.
The court heard the family are held in high regard in the area and the allegations were a huge shock to everyone who knew the brothers.