A retired school teacher must wait to hear whether the courts will halt his trial for abusing a number of his pupils almost 50 years ago.
The 76-year-old man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, faces 16 charges of indecently assaulting eight male pupils in a south Dublin school between September 1, 1968, and June 1, 1969. A ninth pupil has made similar allegations around the same time.
The man is seeking to have his trial prohibited on grounds of delay.
The assaults on multiple complainants are alleged to have occurred in full view of other pupils and anyone coming into the classroom. The man maintains that if that happened, which he denies, it would have occurred within sight and hearing of the teacher and pupils in the adjoining room.
His lawyers argued that a number of potential witnesses - fellow staff in the school - who may have been available to help his case were now deceased. He listed 16 deceased people he believed could have been of assistance to him in making his case. They included school principals, teachers, regional inspectors, caretakers and gardaí.
His lawyers contended that these persons would have been regular visitors to his classroom and would have been in a position to describe the layout. Inspectors could have given evidence on his teaching, having observed him. They could have given evidence on the “unlikelihood” that the abuse occurred at all, his lawyers contended.
In the High Court, Mr Justice Paul McDermott said the deaths of these named persons over the years did not give rise to a real risk of an unfair trial. He said he was not satisfied that the case was “wholly exceptional” to give rise to a prohibition of trial.
His lawyers appealed that judgment on Friday in the Court of Appeal where judgment was reserved.
Patrick Gageby SC, for the man, submitted that the High Court judge “devalued” the loss of witnesses who his client says were “valuable and irreplaceable witnesses to support him on the facts”. It was a loss which could not be repaired by having some pupils say they do not remember “anything untoward”, he submitted.
Mr Gageby said his client laid particular emphasis on the fact that a partition between the adjoining classrooms was open in the relevant period as his fellow, late teacher was unwell at the time. When he was absent, the principal or some other person would have taken the class.
He said the complaints against his client included allegations that he was a “physical tyrant” who beat young pupils on top of allegations that he interfered with them sexually.These witnesses could have explained what was going on in the classroom.
Another issue was that the mother of one of the pupils was said to have threatened to raise the alleged abuse on the “Gay Byrne Show” but Gay Byrne’s show didn’t start until 1973.
The court heard that the complainants, who were boys at the time, are now approaching their 60s.
Mr Justice John Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the court would reserve its judgment.
Mr Justice Edwards said the court was conscious that it was an old case and the court would endeavour to produce its judgment as early as possible.
A trial date is fixed for April, the court heard.
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