DPP v S.A.

JudgeMs. Justice Isobel Kennedy
Judgment Date11 March 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] IECA 60
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Docket Number[214/18]
Date11 March 2020
S. A.

[2020] IECA 60

The President

Whelan J.

Kennedy J.



Conviction – Sexual offences – Delay – Appellant seeking to appeal against conviction – Whether the trial judge failed to properly warn the jury in respect of delay and corroboration

Facts: The appellant, on 2nd April 2018, following a 42-day trial, was convicted in the Central Criminal Court on three counts of rape and 20 counts of sexual assault. The trial involved two complainants (CE and JE) who were sisters and were 10 and 12 years, respectively, at the time of the alleged offences, which related to the period 3rd December 2010 to 11th March 2011. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against conviction. The grounds of appeal advanced were that the judge erred: (i) in law by admitting the four DVDs of the specialist interview with JE; (ii) by refusing to excise portions of the DVD of the specialist interviews with JE; (iii) by refusing to excise a portion of the DVD of the specialist interview with CE; (iv) in permitting background evidence to go before the jury; (v) in refusing to withdraw the case from the jury in its entirety; (vi) in failing to properly warn the jury in respect of delay and corroboration; (vii) in allowing the replaying of certain portions of the DVD to the jury; (viii) in failing to adequately recharge the jury following requisitions; and (ix) in law by failing to give a stronger warning in relation to relevant press coverage.

Held by the Court that: (i) the criticisms made on behalf of the appellant regarding the admission of the DVDs were without foundation and the trial judge did not err in admitting the DVDs of interview in evidence; (ii) and (iii) it could find no error in the trial judge’s ruling regarding the impugned material; (iv) the evidence adduced was clearly relevant and necessary in terms of the test in The People (DPP) v McNeill [2011] IESC 12; (v) the refusal to withdraw the case in terms of the principles in R v Galbraith [1981] 1 WLR 1039 and POC v The DPP [2000] 3 IR 87 was a legitimate exercise of the trial judge’s discretion; (vi) it could find no error in the trial judge’s charge relating to delay and corroboration; (vii) re-playing portions of the DVDs without summarising again the cross-examination did not give rise to an injustice or unfairness to the appellant; (viii) the charge was fair, comprehensive and clear; and (ix) it was not persuaded in any way that the fairness of the trial or the safety of the verdicts were in any way affected by the judge’s decision not to give the warning requested.

The Court held that, as it had rejected each of the grounds of appeal, the appeal would be dismissed.

Appeal dismissed.

JUDGMENT of the Court delivered on the 11th day of March 2020 by Ms. Justice Isobel Kennedy

On 2nd April 2018, following a 42-day trial, the appellant was convicted in the Central Criminal Court on three counts of rape and 20 counts of sexual assault. The trial involved two complainants, who were sisters, CE and JE, who were 10 and 12 years, respectively, at the time of the alleged offences, which related to the period 3rd December 2010 to 11th March 2011.

The Factual Background

CE and JE and their two younger siblings, are the children of RE. They lived with their mother at various addresses in England from birth. The evidence at trial was that the children had different fathers, that RE lived in somewhat chaotic and reduced circumstances. She was known to social services in the UK in the context of parenting issues.


In 2010, the family were living in the Surrey area. CE, in her evidence, described their flat as “a mouse hole”. At some stage in 2010, RE renewed acquaintance with the appellant who had been a long-time friend of her brother. The appellant would later intimate to Gardaí that he was a professional gambler and he gave the appearance of being a person of some financial substance, owning a valuable, substantial detached house in West Sussex. He was separated from his wife and the mother of his two children.


In 2010, when RE was experiencing difficulties with social services, the appellant invited her and her four children to come and live with him at his home. He provided a luxurious and lavish lifestyle, fee-paying schools, horse riding, stabling horses for them and furnishing a large number of expensive presents. In late 2010, social services in Surrey had been in contact with the West Sussex Social Services. Concerns in relation to accommodation were no more, but there were concerns in relation to SA's involvement with the children, particularly concerns about personal grooming of the older girls such as bathing, etc.


In November 2010, social services had requested that RE and SA agree to a contract of arrangements which would involve the giving of undertakings relating to non-involvement of SA in the personal physical grooming of CE and JE


According to CE, SA picked her up from school one day, told her that he and her mother did not intend to agree to the conditions and that they were going to Ireland on holidays. At very short notice, the appellant, RE and her four children travelled to Ireland on 19th November 2010. They stayed at a number of hotels in the greater Dublin area and all expenses were paid by the appellant. On around 3rd December 2010, SA, after viewing properties in the County Louth area, rented a substantial detached house on its own grounds with gated security and stabling for horses.


Separately, SA had brought another single mother with children to Ireland and had installed them in a separate house very near to the first property. This was HP and she and her two children, BP and RP, had also made acquaintance with SA shortly before the move to Ireland.


The weather in December 2010 was unusually severe. This partly explained why RE was absent from the rented house for periods. On one occasion, SA, despite the very poor road conditions, travelled to Dublin in a taxi with CE for the purpose of retrieving a car left by RE at Dublin Airport. The evidence at trial was that the weather was so poor that SA and CE ultimately stayed at the Hilton Hotel in Dublin Airport that night, sharing a bedroom. CE told the jury at trial that during the night, SA raped and sexually assaulted her on two occasions.


On the first occasion, she described falling asleep watching a pay-per-view movie on television when she became aware that he was sexually molesting her and that he had raped her. She subsequently fell back asleep. She told the jury that the accused later told her that her mother had communicated her whereabouts to her English grandmother and relatives, and that as a result of their concerns, a request was made by the UK police to Coolock Gardaí to check on the appellant. The evidence was that Gardaí were not aware of any concerns about sexual impropriety, but simply went to the hotel to check on their presence. This the Gardaí did, and CE's evidence was that after the Gardaí had left, SA once more sexually molested her.


CE's evidence was that following the incidents in the Hilton Hotel, that SA had thereafter raped and sexually assaulted her on a number of occasions at the rented accommodation until the time when they were taken into care by Gardaí/Tusla on 13th March 2011. CE's evidence was that she, her sister, JE, and her other siblings all slept on the first floor of this substantial residence and that SA had his bedroom on the first floor also, beside the girls' bedrooms, while their mother occupied the entire second upper floor of the house. CE told the jury that on occasions, SA would come into her bedroom, would lie beside her on her bed and would scratch/rub her back and then would rape and sexually assault her. She said that she did not tell her mother, or indeed anyone else about the abuse. However, after she went into care, she told another fostered girl, whom she felt she could trust, on 31st March 2011. This disclosure came about 18 days after CE went into foster care and led to Gardaí and Tusla being notified.


It may be of assistance to refer to contact between the social services in England and the HSE/ Tusla. It appears that after RE and SA had failed to present for an appointment with West Sussex Social Services, that the social worker, Mr. M, and colleagues became aware that there was a possibility that SA and the E family had moved to Ireland. A notification issued. There seems to have been some delay in referring the matter to a social worker, but in any event, a social worker, Ms. P, visited the rented house on or about 5th January 2011. She was unimpressed by what she saw despite the lavish accommodation. She was concerned that although the children had been in the jurisdiction since 19th November, none of the older children had been enrolled in school. She spoke with SA and indicated that if the older children were not placed in school, the authorities would have to become involved. SA said he would arrange for the children to be placed in school, but when the social worker, Ms. P, returned to the house on 21st January 2011, she was advised by the young, male housekeeper, that the appellant, RE and RE's children had travelled to the United States to Disneyworld and were not due back until the end of January 2011. Apparently, because of Ms. P's intervention, the children were subsequently enrolled in local schools and started to attend school from early February 2011. It appears that SA arranged for the two younger children, J and M, to be placed in a private crèche facility in the Louth area.


The children were enrolled in school in February 2011. Some of the teachers and local parents started to notice what they felt was unusual behaviour in relation to the interaction between the appellant and JE. At...

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