A Buncrana man, accused of the indecent assault of a 15-year-old boy in the 1970s, has had the charge against him dismissed.
The man in his 60s, who cannot be named by an order enforced by the court, appeared at Buncrana District Court on Tuesday, at which he pleaded not guilty to the charge.
Giving evidence, the complainant told the court he had been at a social function in a local hotel. He said he met the accused, who asked him to accompany him while he drove an elderly lady home. The teenager agreed, on the basis he could drive the older man’s car.
The man told the court he knew he was 15-years-old as he had not been the legal age to drive.
The court was told the elderly lady was left at her home and the young boy drove the car a short distance before turning to come back. He said that on stopping the car, the accused had the zip of his trousers down and “jumped on top” of him.
He said: “He started to put my penis into his face and at the same time was pushing me down into the seat of the car. At that stage, he had undone my trousers and had started to touch me. This went on, pushing and shoving for three or four minutes.”
The man told the court he was shouting at the older man to stop and managed to get out of the car. He said he ran up the road 100 yards, before realising he did not know where he was.
He said he had to return to the car, where the accused allegedly asked him not to tell anyone about what had happened. The complainant said there were two 50p pieces on the dashboard and the man told him he could take them. They drove back to Buncrana and the young boy went on his way, “bamboozled.”
He said he was “so scared” for two years after the incident and later told his parents and siblings. He said he also told members of the Gardai. he “didn’t like” the accused and wanted to make them “aware.” He said he did not tell him what the accused had allegedly done to him and declined to make a statement. He said he was “not a person for the courts.”
He added that “in hindsight,” he should have made a complaint.
“It was different times then,” he said.
He said he later went to Gardai in 2010 as he “heard something he may have done to someone else.”
The court was told that “later in life,” the complainant and another man had gone to the accused and asked him for “compensation” for what he had allegedly done to them.
The complainant claimed the accused gave each of them 5000 euro the next day, stating the transaction occurred around 10-years-ago. He said when the accused gave him the money, he told him if he heard of him “annoying anyone else” in the town, he’d have “no difficulty” in going to Gardai.
He said he had been drinking heavily at the time, but has been sober for many years. He also told the court he had been admitted to hospitaltwo months after the alleged incident for depression and alcohol issues.
Defence barrister Damien Crawford put it to the complainant that his admission to St Conal’s would have enabled Gardai to “date” the alleged offence.He also put it to him that he “blackmailed” the accused in relation to the money.
He replied he did not, “under no circumstances,” adding he “demanded nothing.”
He said he did not think his admission to hospital was “relevant” for a criminal prosecution. Mr Crawford also queried the age of the complainant at the time of the alleged offence, stating the time frame on the charge sheet spanned a period of three-years.The man replied he knew he was 15-years-old.
Buncrana Garda Inspector David Murphy asked the man what effect the incident had upon him. He replied he had been “traumatised”and was “still traumatised.”
“I lived in hell, I’m still living in hell,” he said.
Investigating Garda Kevin Clancy told the court the accused went voluntarily to the Garda Station and said he had a car the make and model described. A subsequent vehicle check with Donegal County Council found it was not registered to him, but to another gentleman of the same surname.
The court was told Gardai searched his home and found a bank book, with two 5000 euro withdrawals, taken one week apart, in 1993.
Mr Crawford said that due to the vintage of the case, none of the alleged witnesses were still alive. He said the vehicle in question had not been registered to the client and there was no corroborative evidence. He asked how the accused could adequately defend himself in the case “when so much material is unavailable.”
He said the issue was whether the court could “safely proceed to convict someone” without corroborative evidence.
Inspector David Murphysaid there was “nothing prejudicial” about the fact no witnesses were available as their evidence would not have been “remarkable”. He added that the general public were’t as “au fait” as practitioners were with the workings of the courts and the man’s neglect to tell Gardai of his admission to hospital was due to the fact he did not think it related to the criminal proceedings.
Judge Paul Kelly left the court for over an hour to consider his verdict.
On his return, he referred to the man’s admission to St Conal’s describing it as a “hugely significant event in anyone’s life, particularly a 16-year old’s.”
He outlined how this admission would have corroborated his evidence and records would have been available.
He also outlined how the dates on the lodgement book did not match the date the complainant spoke of. Judge Kelly said there was “little or no corroborative evidence” and said he was of the view the case would not be allowed to go before a jury. He dismissed the charge.