A JUDGE has rejected a proposal that a sex offender not be present for his sentencing hearing and view proceedings via FaceTime, Zoom or some other ‘virtual’ means from his current home in France.
At Ennis Circuit Court on today (Thursday), Judge Gerald Keys stated that it would be “grossly unfair” to the man’s victim if he wasn’t present for the sentencing.
The 22-year-old Clare man sexually assaulted the girl after the two made contact through Snapchat and he has failed to turn up for his sentencing as he is on Covid-19 lockdown in France. Travel restrictions in France concerning Covid-19 have meant that the man has been unable to fly back to Ireland.
At the court in February, the teenage complainant said she wanted justice for the sexual abuse perpetrated on her by a “vile creature” when she was aged 12.
The teenager, now 17, stated that her life has only gone downhill since the accused “abused me at such a young age”.
In the case, the accused, now aged 22 but aged 17 at the time, has pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual assault against the female between October 24, 2014 and April 2015.
The two, who come from the same part of County Clare and went to the same secondary school at the time, made direct contact initially anonymously through Snapchat and then met in person shortly after.
One of the counts of sexual assault took place in the grounds of a local primary school.
In court on Thursday, Judge Keys stated that it would be grossly unfair to the victim and to the accused if he was not present for the sentencing.
Judge Keys stated that he has put considerable time into the judgement, and he is ready to give it.
Counsel for the accused, Pat Whyms BL stated that his client has waived his right not to be in court for the hearing and has also indicated that he would be able to be present virtually “via some online portal” if the court was prepared to dispose of the matter in that way.
Mr Whyms stated if the sentencing involved the accused having to enter a bond, he would have to agree to that.
However, Judge Keys stated that he had “serious reservations” over dealing with the sentencing in the accused man’s absence.
The judge stated that unless direction is provided by the Attorney General that sentencing can take place in the absence of the accused “I am not prepared to go down that road”.
Judge Keys stated, “Without the imprimatur of higher authorities, I am not prepared to deal with it.”
Judge Keys is due to retire from the bench on May 22 and stated that if the accused can’t attend, the case will have to for re-hearing of sentencing before a new judge.
Counsel for the State, Lorcan Connolly BL stated the case is a peculiar one as the accused is on Covid-19 lockdown in France and that Judge Keys is due to retire.
In court in February, Detective Sergeant Kevin O’Hagan told the court that the girl’s mother made contact with the authorities in April 2015 “after her daughter had said to her something distressing – ‘someone keeps putting something in her mouth and she didn’t like it’.”
Detective O’Hagan stated that after the anonymous Snapchat game of “Shift or Pass” the two made direct contact and exchanges photos that were sexual in nature.
The two shortly met in person after and the majority of the counts of sexual assault took place at the then 17-year-old boy’s family home.
Counsel for the accused, Mark Nicholas SC previously said that there was no sense of coercion or threat of violence concerning the sexual assaults.
Judge Keys adjourned the matter to next Thursday.