J.(S).T. -v- President of the Circuit Court & anor, [2014] IEHC 5 (2014)

Docket Number:2013 57 JR
Party Name:J.(S).T., President of the Circuit Court & anor
Judge:Kearns P.
 
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THE HIGH COURTJUDICIAL REVIEW[2013 No. 57 JR]BETWEENJ. (S). T.APPLICANTANDTHE PRESIDENT OF THE CIRCUIT COURT AND THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONSRESPONDENTSJUDGMENT of Kearns P. delivered on the 17th day of January, 2014.The applicant in this case is a former Christian Brother, who was born on the 15th April, 1942 and is now 71 years of age. In these proceedings the applicant seeks to prohibit his trial on 112 counts of indecent assault in respect of four complainants in Limerick Circuit Court (Bill No. 93/2010) and a further 139 counts of indecent assault in respect of thirteen other complainants, also in Limerick Circuit Court (Bill No. 190/2012). The alleged offences relate to the time period from 1979 to 1981 when the applicant was teaching fifth and sixth class pupils in a school in Limerick. The incidents are alleged to have taken place in the classroom, the environs of the school and in the swimming pool where the applicant assisted in the teaching of swimming.The applicant is seeking to prohibit his trial on two grounds. The first is that the delay in instituting the criminal proceedings has prejudiced him and has led to a real risk of an unfair trial. In this regard, he complains of blameworthy prosecutorial delay. He also seeks relief on a second ground that it would be unfair or unjust in all the particular circumstances of this case to put him on trial at all.By way of opposition, the second respondent contends there has not been any blameworthy prosecutorial delay in the circumstances of this case, particularly having regard to the large number of complainants and the complex nature of the garda investigation. Alternatively, if there has been some blameworthy prosecutorial delay, it is contended that, in adopting a balancing exercise, this Court should find that the public interest in having the multiple allegations prosecuted outweighs the effect of any delay in the case. In relation to the second ground, the respondents contend that there are no exceptional circumstances which would warrant any finding by the Court that it would be unfair or unjust to put the applicant on trial.In an effort to simplify matters in this case, I feel the Court should at the outset address two aspects of this case upon which reliance has been placed by the applicant to argue for the existence of exceptional circumstances which would make or render it unfair or unjust to put the applicant on trial at all.These derive from the fact that the applicant has previously faced trial on six occasions in respect of other similar allegations and has not been convicted. He has also previously spent over four years in custody while awaiting trial for those other matters.Stated in such bald terms, it might well be thought that these considerations should weigh heavily in the Court’s consideration on that issue. Such a perception would, in my view, be gravely mistaken. The “other offences” relate to totally different charges, 104 in number, allegedly committed by the applicant between September 1969 and June 1972 while he was a teacher at another school in Dublin. The applicant also sought to prohibit his trial on those charges, an application which was rejected first by the High Court and subsequently by the Supreme Court. In his High Court application to prohibit his trial for those offences, the applicant alleged prosecutorial delay from 1998 (when the complainants in that case came forward), and April 2003 during which the garda investigation was carried out. Hanna J. found however that the garda investigation was a complex, detailed and methodical investigation and declined to attach any blameworthy delay to An Garda Síochána in that regard. However he found there had been some blameworthy delay on the part of the prosecuting authorities and proceeded to apply a balancing test, noting in particular in this regard that the applicant had offered no medical evidence whatsoever to support his claim that he had endured severe stress and anxiety as a result of delay.The issue of his time in custody was also addressed in the hearing before Hanna J. The applicant had in fact been granted bail but opted to remain in custody rather than face what he expected would be significant harassment and vilification from the media if he were to return to the outside world where, he said, he could no longer function. Other complaints about prejudice suffered by reason of adverse media reports were rejected by Hanna J. on the basis they ceased over three years before he gave judgment in 2007.The applicant appealed to the Supreme Court from this decision. That appeal was refused in a judgment (J.T. v. Director of Public Prosecutions [2008] IESC 20) delivered on the 17th April, 2008.This Court is of the view that the “Dublin offences” or his period of freely chosen time in custody are not matters relevant to the present application. To hold otherwise would ineluctably lead to the position that the longer the list of offences with which a person was charged the less likely it would become that he would ever have to stand trial for those later uncovered and made the subject of further criminal charges.ALLEGED...

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