Retired priest Fr Dan Duane who was acquitted in May 2011 of charges of indecently assaulting a teenage girl around 30 years ago
In May 2011 Father Dan Duane a 73-year-old retired priest from Mallow, Co. Cork, who was on trial charged with indecently assaulting a woman 30 years ago when she was a teenager, was found not guilty by direction of the trial judge in Cork Circuit Criminal Court. The trial judge, Sean Ó Donabháin, directed the jury to find Fr Duane not guilty. He said the delay by the woman in making her complaint was inexplicable, given that she was trained and worked in a profession which encouraged victims to make complaints, and which emphasised that complaints would be treated seriously when they were made. Judge Ó Donabháin said he had a worry about the delay in making the complaint, given that Fr Duane had established to his satisfaction that he shared the house where the assault was alleged to have occurred with a housekeeper and a curate. He said if the complaint had been made earlier these people could have been asked to make statements about it. The charge alleged that the assault occurred on dates between 1 September 1980, up to and including 1 April 1982, and Judge Ó Donnabháin said he could not understand why that period of time could not have been narrowed down.
The judge said he had specific views on why the complainant, in the context of her life since the alleged incident, could have brought the complainant sooner. It is not possible to give details of her life, as it could identify her. "How do you explain to the jury the delay against that background?" the judge asked. "I am concerned [that] when this [alleged assault] happened in the afternoon, she says she was alone in the house [with the defendant], when the defendant has established to my satisfaction that there was a housekeeper who lived in and a curate who lived in. "Given the likely presence of these people in the house in the afternoon and their ability to give a statement had a complaint been made earlier, [the delay] is worrying."
The woman told the court that some months after the alleged incident, she told a friend that Fr Duane kissed her and some years later she told the same woman that he had fondled her breasts but the court heard that that friend had no recollection of the woman ever telling anything about the incident.
The woman confirmed she had recently instructed solicitors to send a letter seeking damages from Fr Dan Duane and the Diocese of Cloyne but she strongly rejected a suggestion by Fr Duane's counsel, Jim O'Mahony SC that she had invented the complaint for monetary gain.
After the trial the Rape Crisis Network has expressed horror that a judge has cited an alleged sexual assault victim’s profession as grounds to direct that the perpetrator be found not guilty. RCNI legal director Caroline Counihan said they were gravely concerned at the implication of Judge Ó Donnabháin’s remarks that a victim’s profession "may be seen as grounds for questioning her actions in relation to reporting sexual assault".
"Every survivor of sexual violence has a unique set of circumstances and choices when considering reporting the crimes. The Supreme Court in 2006 recognised that it was ‘no longer necessary to establish reasons for the delay’. In fact they went so far as to say that delay in reporting was such a classic feature of sexual violence, particularly child abuse cases, ‘that the court would probably be entitled to take judicial notice of the fact that this is an inherent element in the nature of such offences’," said Ms Counihan. "The question we are left with after Judge Ó Donnabháin’s remarks is, would some of the approximately 170 staff and volunteers who work in the rape crisis sector in Ireland (as but one example) feel less able to pursue a case in our courts or report in the first place should they be subjected to sexual violence or report past abuse?"
MY COMMENT: Is this woman a member of the Rape Crisis Network by any chance? If so it is her delay of 30 years in contacting the Gardai that would deter genuine victims of sexual assault from reporting such an assault. But the Rape Crisis Network prefers to blame the judge who criticised the delay!
4 June 2011