Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Sinéad Ring
Irish Supreme Court Review
Applications to halt the trial of charges of non-recent child sexual abuse. The People (D.P.P.) v. C.Ce [2019] I.E.S.C. 94
In Press
Optional Fields
child sexual abuse, delay, victims, fairness
Ireland, like many other countries, has reckoned with the question of how to acknowledge and do justice to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Criminal prosecutions, are arguably the most important form of legal response to non-recent child sexual abuse, both in terms of the possible vindication and accountability they may offer survivors, and the opportunity for public condemnation of the abuser’s actions, if s/he is convicted. In finally coming to the criminal process, survivors are asking that the law (at least) acknowledge the legitimacy of their complaint by holding a trial. However, non-recent child sexual abuse often comes to the attention of the criminal process only after a significant interval of time has passed following the alleged abuse. An established body of psychological and sociological research explains that delay in reporting childhood sexual abuse is a normal response. Over the course of the past three decades, the Irish courts have moved away from assuming that the impact of the interval of time between the alleged abuse and the reporting to the gardaí will inevitably mean the defendant is unfairly prejudiced, to being more willing to engage with the evidence and closely examine defendants’ claims of unfairness. In People (D.P.P.) v. C.Ce the Supreme Court clarified the approach to be taken by trial judges. The case is an important evolution in the Court's thinking about 'delay' and prejudice to the defence in non-recent child sexual abuse trials. This article explores the C.Ce decision and its significance. It examines the evidential and practical challenges faced by defendants and the prosecution in non-recent child sexual abuse trials. Section II sets out the evolution of the jurisprudence on defence applications to have the trial stopped on the grounds that the impact of the interval of time is such that the trial cannot be in accordance with constitutional fairness. Section III explores C.Ce itself, dealing first with the facts and then considering each judgment. Section IV places the judgment in a broader context and comments on further possible developments.
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