DPP v R.C.

CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeMr. Justice Edwards
Judgment Date16 January 2023
Neutral Citation[2023] IECA 4
Docket NumberRecord No: 65/2022
The People (At the Suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions)

[2023] IECA 4

Birmingham P.

Edwards J.

McCarthy J.

Record No: 65/2022


Conviction – Sexual offences – Risk of an unfair trial – Appellant seeking to appeal against conviction – Whether the trial judge erred in refusing to stop the trial on the grounds that there was a real risk of an unfair trial

Facts: The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against conviction by a jury at the Central Criminal Court on the 29th of June 2021 of 48 counts of sexual assault contrary to s. 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 as amended, 11 counts of rape contrary to s. 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981 as amended by s. 21 of the 1990 Act and as provided for in s. 48 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, and 13 counts of rape contrary to s. 4 of the 1990 Act. The appellant submitted that the trial judge erred in law and in fact, or in a mixed question of law and fact, thereby rendering the conviction unsafe and unsound, in the following respects: (1) erred in refusing to stop the trial on the grounds that there was a real risk of an unfair trial which could not be avoided by appropriate rulings and directions on the part of the trial judge, including on the basis articulated in P.O’C. v DPP [2006] 3 IR 238 and in particular on the grounds that (a) the gardai failed to properly investigate the alleged offences and to seek out and preserve all relevant evidence – in particular, failing to interview important relevant witnesses, specifically family members of the complainant – without justification or any adequate justification, (b) witnesses as to relevant fact were deceased – in particular the grandmother of the complainant and her uncle, (c) the failure to stop the trial was against the background of a stale case and a case built on vague allegations – in particular the allegations relating to anal intercourse; (2) erred in refusing to find that the gardai had failed in their duty to seek out and preserve evidence, particularly when there was no or no adequate justification offered for the omissions in the investigation, in particular where the case was both stale and vague; (3) failed to distinguish or adequately distinguish in her directions to the jury the effects of delay on a case on the one hand from the effects and consequences of failure to investigate on the other – in particular, failed to direct the jury that shortcomings in the investigations in the context of a stale case could give rise to a reasonable doubt; (4) failed to adequately direct the jury as to how to fairly determine the issue of the application of the standard of proof in the context of allegations of offences characterised by vagueness.

Held by the Court that the appellant had failed to establish that he faced a real risk of an unfairness in his trial, such as would have required the trial judge to withdraw the case from the jury. The Court considered that while the case was an old one, the trial judge gave an appropriate delay warning as well as an appropriate corroboration warning, and the Court was satisfied that his trial was satisfactory and that his conviction was safe. The Court also expressly rejected the suggestion that the complainant’s evidence was vague, certainly as to the specifics of the abuses that were perpetrated upon her. The Court held that it was no vaguer than that typically encountered in similar cases, and to the extent that it lacked detail that was as to precise dates, the precise number of occasions on which she might have been abused in a particular way and matters of that sort. The Court held that the complainant was entirely clear as to the numerous ways in which she was raped and otherwise molested and concerning the regularity, overall frequency and locations in which those abuses were perpetrated upon her. The Court did not consider that there was any obligation on the trial judge to give a special warning to the jury concerning the failure of Garda Doyle to interview witnesses as to collateral issues.

The Court dismissed the appeal.

Appeal dismissed.

JUDGMENT of the Court delivered by Mr. Justice Edwards on the 16th of January 2023.


On the 13th of December 2022 this Court heard an appeal against the appellant's conviction by a jury at the Central Criminal Court on the 29th of June 2021 of forty eight (48) counts of sexual assault contrary to s.2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990 as amended; eleven (11) counts of rape, contrary to s.2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) 1981 as amended by s.21 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, and as provided for in s.48 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861; and thirteen (13) counts of rape contrary to s.4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990.


Having heard the appeal, which involved what counsel for the appellant conceded were novel submissions and arguments, the members of the Court's bench conducted a délibère in private following which we returned to Court and announced in public that we would be dismissing the appeal against conviction and would furnish our reasons in a written judgment on the 16th of January 2023. In this judgment we now provide the reasons for our said decision.

Background to the Appeal

The complainant alleged that she was regularly sexually assaulted and raped by the appellant over a ten-year period ranging from when she was eight years of age, until her 18th birthday. The complainant was born on the 17th May 1983 and the counts on the indictment ranged from the 17th May 1991 to the 16th May 2001.


The complainant gave evidence during the trial over two days. Her evidence included testimony that the appellant was in a relationship with her mother from when she was a baby. She said that she lived initially in a mobile home near a named village within a county in Leinster [“village A”] and then resided with her mother and grandmother in another named village in the same county [“village B”] until she was five years old, whereupon herself and her mother moved to a council house in yet another village in a neighbouring county [“village C”]. The complainant said that while they were living in village C, the appellant would visit every night from around 8 o'clock until midnight or 1am, but he never slept there.


The complainant said that she lived in village C until she was about 15 years old and in transition year in school (a convent school in a nearby substantial town), during which year she lived with her aunt and uncle [“S”] and [“T”], and their three children who were her first cousins, comprising two boys and a girl [“A”], in a house near to her grandmother's house in village B. Transition year started in September 1999 and the evidence was that she lived with her aunt and uncle in village B from September 1999 until the summer of 2000. During this time the complainant's mother moved to a house jointly acquired with the appellant in yet another village [“village “D”] in the same county as villages A and B.


The complainant testified that thereafter, while she was in fifth and sixth year in secondary school, she boarded at the school during the week, but at weekends and during school holidays lived with her mother and the appellant in the house jointly owned by them in village D.


The complainant her abuse by the appellant as having commenced when she was living in the house in village C. She described it as having started in the sitting room with the appellant touching her outside her clothes, involving her legs and the outside of her underwear. On subsequent occasions it then progressed to him putting his hands inside her underwear and the touching of her vagina. This happened frequently. It then further progressed to digital penetration of the complainant's vagina by the appellant. The complainant also described how the appellant would produce his penis and make her touch it.


The complainant said she was on her own with the appellant quite a lot, at least once or twice a week, while living in the house in village C, when her mother would be out and about for various reasons. The abuse happened on these occasions.


The complainant went on to describe other occasions when she would be abused while in the house in village C. There were two bedrooms in the house, a main bedroom that she shared with her mother and another bedroom no longer used as such but as a toy room. The complainant slept in the main bedroom. She said sometimes she would be asleep in bed, her mother having gone out, and she would awake to find the appellant touching her in the dark. On other occasions when her mother was out, and the complainant was still up, he would bring her into the spare bedroom or toy room for the purpose of abusing her there. She was again digitally penetrated on these occasions and she said “he tried on numerous occasions to have sex with me, but it didn't actually work – get to that point. He did manage to put his penis inside me but not fully.” The complainant went on to describe that also on these occasions the appellant made her perform oral sex on him. This also happened in the sitting room.


The complainant said that when she went to live in village D the appellant continued his abuse of her there. The abuse there comprised digital penetration of her vagina, groping of her breasts and progressed to regular full vaginal sexual intercourse and occasional anal intercourse with her. She said he had “pushed himself on me”, and this occurred from “about 12 onwards”. She said she was anally penetrated “quite a few times”, but “maybe less than 10 times”.


The complainant described being in fear of the appellant during the period that she was abused. Her evidence was that the appellant used to go shooting and had a gun in the bedroom in village D. She would sometimes...

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1 cases
  • DPP v R.C.
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 14 February 2023
    ...earlier judgement in relation to the appellant's appeal against his conviction — see The People (Director of Public Prosecutions v. R.C. [2023] IECA 4 — and this judgment may be read in conjunction with that judgment. The trial before the jury in the Central Criminal Court was presided over......

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