Court moves to show effects of rape ruling
Irish Times 27/05/2006
Conor lally and martin Wall Opposition calls for immediate action to close legislative loophole. The far reaching consequences of this week's ruling by the supreme court became more clear yesterday when two charges of statutory rape of a 16yr old girl against a Dublin man were discontinued by the state, calling into question all legislation on statute books relating to sexual intercourse with minors.
Yesterday's decision effectivley means the state has decided not to test laws governing the statutory rape of teenagers between 15 and 17. The supreme Court earlier in the week struck down laws relating to the statutory rape of minors under 15. Opposition parties were strongly critical of the latest developments. They called for the immediate closing of legislative loopholes and for the introduction of new legislation governing statutory rape.
Minister for Justice Michael Mc Dowell is to brief the Cabinet on Tuesday, when legislative proposals to address the latest developments will be published. The 36yr old from North Dublin at the centre of the latest case was charged with two counts of statutory rape of a 16yr old 29 months ago. He has been in prison awaiting trial since then. He was also charged with one count in relation to a non-sexual assault against the same girl. The suspect was due to appear before the the courts in June.
However, the state applied to Judge Katherine Delahunt on Thursday to have him produced before the court yesterday. When he appeared, the solicitor for Public Prosecutions, Liam Holland entered an Olle Prosequi. Yesterdays case at Dublin's criminal court apparently has the effect of widening the scope of the Supreme court ruling this week which struck section 1.1 of the 1935 Criminal law (Ammendment) Act, which automatically made it against the law to have sex with a girl under 15yrs.
The two charges discontinued yesterday related to section 2 of the Act. This relates to intercourse with girls aged between 15 and 17, which caries softer penalties. The withdrawals of the charges effectively means any person who has sex with a minor cannot be convicted of statutory rape. Any person awaiting trial for the same offence is likely to have the charges withdrawn. Any person already convicted can now challenge the legality of their continued detention. The third non-sexual charge against the man, under section 3 of the Non Fatal Offences against the Person Act still stands. The suspect was granted bail in relation to this charge.
Marie Torrens BL, acting for the accused, told Judge Delahunt she would now be writing to the DPP to raise her clients case with the office and and to seek clarification as a current legislation. Ms Torrens acted as junior councel in the Supreme Court earlier in the week. That case was brought by a young man who had consensual sex with a 14yr old girl who told him she was 16. He was 18 at the time. He said the law was unconstitutional because it was not open to him to claim he honestly believed she was older or that he had made an honest mistake.
There were also a number of other developments in the courts yesterday following that Supreme Court ruling. A Romanian man who admitted having sex with a 14yr old Irish girl has been allowed withdraw his guitly plea. A 41 yr old man jailed in 2004 for the statutory rape of a 12yr old girl went to the High Court yeasterday to challenge his detention. The case will be heard on monday. Fine Gaels justice spokesman, Jim O Keefe, accused Mr Mc Dowell of complacency an "an almost flippant" approach to the crisis.
Labour's Seanad spokeswoman on justice, Senator Joanna Tuffy, rejected suggestions by Mr McDowell that a person who has unlawful carnal knowledge with a minor can still be convicted of sexual assault. Green Party justice spokesman Ciaran Cuffe said it was vital the Oireachtas acted immediately.