Judgment Reserved in Appeal by Priest of Rape Conviction

Irish Times
July 15, 2008

THE COURT of Criminal Appeal has reserved judgment on an appeal by a Co Donegal priest against his conviction and seven-year sentence for raping a teenage parishioner in a church sacristy.

Fr Daniel Doherty (49), of Derriscleigh, Carrigart, has appealed against his conviction on charges of raping the then 13-year-old girl in the sacristy on dates in 1985 and of indecently assaulting her in the parochial house in 1985 and in his car in December 1984.

Mr Justice Philip O'Sullivan jailed Doherty for a total of seven years and directed he be registered as a sex offender.

Doherty had denied all the charges, and his appeal concluded yesterday before the three-judge appeal court consisting of Ms Justice Fidelma Macken, presiding, and sitting with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards.

Ms Justice Macken said the court would reserve judgment and indicated it was unlikely a decision would be given before October.

Earlier, in closing submissions for Doherty, Alexander Owens SC argued that certain material put before the jury was irrelevant to the issues they had to decide and "highly prejudicial" to the defence. This material included statements from the complainant's teachers and her friends.

Mr Owens had previously argued that statements taken from two witnesses who were in the US and unavailable for the trial should not have been read to the jury. The appeal court has ruled the inclusion of those particular statements was "procedurally impermissible" but has to decide if they render the conviction unsafe.

Opposing the appeal, Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, for the DPP, said statements had been put before the jury following agreement with Doherty's previous legal team.

Counsel denied that irrelevant material was put before the jury, and submitted that "no miscarriage of justice" had occurred.

The woman had made her allegations formally in a letter to the Bishop of Raphoe, Dr Seamus Hegarty, in 2003, and that resulted in a Garda investigation and to the prosecution of Doherty.

The appeal heard that during the 1980s a complaint made to the girl's teachers had not resulted in a proper investigation by the school, and gardai were not contacted until she made her formal allegations 18 years later.


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