A young woman whose father was convicted of repeatedly raping her visited him in the Midlands Prison Portlaoise where she allegedly “admitted telling lies" during his trial, the Court of Appeal has heard.
In February, the 47-year-old man was found guilty of sexually assaulting and raping his daughter in various ways in Co Mayo and abroad on dates between 2006 and 2010 when she was aged between seven and eleven. Their details must not be published to protect the victim’s identity.
The Central Criminal Court heard that the first rape took place shortly after the death of her mother. He referred to her by her dead mother's name and continued to do so during subsequent attacks, the court heard.
Describing his offending as “depraved”, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment with the final year suspended. The man had pleaded not guilty to all offences and continues to maintain his innocence.
In a motion to adduce “new evidence” before the Court of Appeal on Wednesday, the man’s barrister, Micheál P O’Higgins SC, said the victim subsequently “recanted” and “admitted telling lies during the trial”.
The Court of Appeal heard that the fact of the prison visit having occurred is not in dispute. The court heard evidence from the man’s former solicitor, now a witness in the case, who corroborated the daughter’s admission that she “told lies during the trial”.
In an affidavit, the father said he was “overjoyed to see” his daughter at a non-screened visit in the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise and that he “did not blame her for what happened”. It was “highly emotional” and his daughter was “at all times affectionate and referred to me as Dad”.
“We spoke of all the good times we had together.” He said his daughter hugged him, kissed him and repeatedly said she was sorry.
She told him, he stated, that ‘I’m going to get you out of here Dad; it’s all my fault and it’s going to be alright.’
Under cross-examination from Alex Owens SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, the man agreed the prison visit was “an emotional event” which lasted about 35 minutes.
A couple of days prior to the visit, he said it was indicated to him by his partner that his daughter may be coming in to see him.
He denied “absolutely” that the purpose of the meeting was to try to influence his daughter and “pull at her heartstrings” to get him out of prison.
"I wanted to see her; I was concerned for her welfare”. He said he was “positive” it wasn’t the other way around.
“You were persuading her to drop everything,” Mr Owens suggested.
“My view of the situation was I didn’t deserve to be in prison,” the man said. “She enquired how she could get me out of there.”
Mr Owens put it to him that his daughter came to see him because she believed he was on hunger strike and on his “last legs”.
"Absolutely not. She came to me because she was full of remorse and guilt". There was "never a hunger strike", he said.
He said there were “various reasons” for her daughter to visit him in prison.
"She told me she was sorry. I told her I forgave her and she was forgiven, that she wasn't at fault.”
When asked what he hoped to achieve from the meeting, he said he “wanted to tell her I forgave her; alleviate the guilt she must be carrying; tell her I love her.”
He said he knew of a proposal for his daughter to go to a solicitor “for the purpose of telling the truth”.
When it was put to him that his daughter denied having taken part in a “three-way” telephone conversation days after the prison visit, he said his daughter was a “pathological liar”.
The Court of Appeal was due to hear evidence from the victim via video link on Wednesday. However, the court was told the victim had left the jurisdiction.
She had “taken off”, Mr O’Higgins said, and would not be making herself available for cross-examination.
The three-judge court issued an order to have her evidence heard on January 11 next.
Mr O’Higgins submitted that the trial judge “failed to hold the scales” of justice evenly between the complainant and accused. There was “mollycoddling” and “cosseting” of the complainant which was objectively unfair, he said.
He said an incident occurred before the complainant began giving evidence, which didn't "speak well for my client”. The accused was "adjudged to have shouted" at his daughter and a Garda as the victim was walking out of court. The trial judge took an "extremely dim view" of this and "matters went somewhat downhill after that”, Mr O’Higgins said. The accused’s bail was revoked and he was "locked up" for a period.
"The mood music in the courtroom altered after that," Mr O'Higgins said.
Mr O'Higgins said the book of evidence, when it was first served, contained an allegation of sexual assault against an elder sister. But on the eve of the trial, the DPP indicated that this other allegation would not be proceeding and the only complainant would be the younger sister.
It emerged, Mr O'Higgins said, that both sisters had made "demonstrably false allegations" of sexual abuse and rape against "completely innocent" third parties in the period December 2014 to January 2015. It was disclosed that when both sisters were interviewed by gardai, under caution, they admitted having made false allegations against those third parties. It was "very disturbing", Mr O'Higgins said.
"Unfortunately" she was cross-examined for an unusually lengthy period of time, five days. Mr O'Higgins said the complainant was "testy, difficult to manage from everybody's point of view, given to outbursts" and frequently declined to answer questions.
From his client's point of view, she was "clever" and "tactical", Mr O'Higgins submitted, and the trial judge was "openly supportive of the belligerent position”.
The hearing resumes in January before Mr Justice John Edwards, Ms Justice Máire Whelan and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy.