Jury begins deliberations in trial of Westmeath man accused of rape

Declan Brennan

Reporter:

Declan Brennan

Jury begins deliberations in trial of Westmeath man accused of rape

The jury has begun deliberations in the trial of a Westmeath man accused of raping a woman he met at a New Year’s Eve ball at a GAA clubhouse.

The 33-year-old man has pleaded not (NOT) guilty at the Central Criminal Court to rape at his home in Westmeath on January 1, 2017.

The complainant was visiting a friend and had planned to spend the night in that woman's home after going to a ball in the local GAA clubhouse. She met the accused and they kissed.

In her evidence, she said that when she couldn't find her friend, she decided she had no other option but to accept an invitation to the man's house. She said that she told him there would be no sexual activity and he agreed, but that minutes after entering his home he attacked and raped her in his front sitting room.

The man has told the jury that he and the woman never discussed what would happen in the house in advance of going back and that all sexual activity that night was consensual.

After giving the jury his charge on the law, Mr Justice Paul McDermott sent the jury out at 3.45pm on Friday afternoon. Jurors deliberated for a short period before going home, to return on Tuesday for continuing deliberations.

In her closing speech for the prosecution, Orla Crowe SC told the jury that the complainant described a sudden violent attack where she was clearly resisting. Her evidence was that after he raped her, the man sat on the couch with his head in his hands and kept saying, “Oh my god, I'm sorry”.

The man's evidence is that he apologised to the woman because she became upset after they had penetrative sex but that his apology was to calm her down and wasn't an admission of guilt, Ms Crowe said.

She said the man gave three different accounts of the sexual activity and his account changed from telling gardaí there was vaginal penetration to his trial evidence that he didn't fully penetrate the woman.

She said the woman's evidence was that her mobile phone had broken on the night and she couldn't contact the female friend who she had arranged to stay the night with. A male friend told the jury that the complainant's phone was an old model and was always breaking down.

Ms Crowe told the jury that the medical evidence was that some of the bruising found on the woman's body on January 2 could be consistent with details of her account.

She said that the woman's account of the evening was clear and consistent and the jury could accept it beyond a reasonable doubt.

In her closing speech for the defence, Caroline Biggs SC said that her client had told gardaí that after sex, the woman became upset and started sobbing and he apologised repeatedly to her.

She asked the jury to consider if he was going to tell gardaí these things if he has committed “a terrible wrongdoing” and she submitted these statements were “suggestive of honesty”.

She said there were material inconsistencies between the woman's account and two other witnesses called by the prosecution. She said the man's brother-in-law, who picked the couple up from the clubhouse and drove them to his house, gave evidence that he offered to drop the woman “home” but she told him she was going back to the defendant's house.

The complainant denies this and also denies that she and the accused were kissing in the car or outside the house, as set out by the brother-in-law.

Ms Biggs also asked the jury to consider the evidence of the complainant's female friend who said that the victim arrived at her home the next morning and burst into tears.

Counsel said that the evidence that the complainant said “I think I was raped” doesn't tally with the account she has given of a violent and brutal attack. She said her friend testified that the complainant seemed confused, “as if she didn't know what had happened”.

“If this violent brutal rape occurred, involving kicking and slapping away [the defendant], how could you possibly be confused about anything. How could you possibly not know that was a rape?” Ms Biggs asked.