A creche worker accused of sexually assaulting three girls in a Leinster creche has been acquitted by a jury of all charges following two trials.
The man (30), who cannot be named to protect the identity of the children involved, had pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of sexual assault relating to three different girls at a creche in Leinster on unknown dates between September 1st, 2015 and December 12th, 2016.
Following a four-week trial, the jury returned verdicts of not guilty on Thursday on 17 counts, after deliberating for one hour and 14 minutes.
One count of sexually assaulting the first complainant in a toilet cubicle was withdrawn during the trial by direction of the judge.
Judge Karen O’Connor thanked the jury for performing their civic duty and told them they were free to go.
Previous trial The man previously stood trial in spring 2020 on 23 charges relating to four girls, but the jury in that trial was unable to agree on verdicts for 18 counts of sexual assault after deliberating for 21 hours and 41 minutes.
This jury returned verdicts of not guilty in relation to five further counts of sexual assault, including allegations he sexually assaulted the fourth child and allegations relating to sexual assault on the creche bus.
The allegations came to light in December 2016 when one of the girls told another child she had kissed the man’s “privates” and this was repeated to another worker in the creche.
Gardaí were notified by one of the girl’s parents and obtained CCTV footage from the creche the following day, before interviewing each complainant in January 2017.
Videos of each child’s interview with specially trained gardaí were played to the jury, and each child was then cross-examined via video-link. Their parents also gave evidence.
Interview failures The second trial was furnished with a document listing 18 concessions made by gardaí in which they admitted failures during the specialist garda interviews with the children. The jury was brought through these concessions at trial.
Sean Guerin SC, defending, submitted the gardaí did not explore many things they should have, and at a time when the children would remember the incidents.
He told the jury there was evidence of suggestibility in the case and evidence of children taking the language of another child, adopting it as their own and using it “without even understanding what it meant”.
Specialist gardaí did not probe the issue of suggestibility with the children, as laid out in the good practice guidelines, Mr Guerin said.
Two of the children were not told by the specialist gardaí that it was very important to tell the truth. The court heard one of the children said she actually did not understand the truth.
The defence submitted this was particularly important in this case where it was known that some of the children were joking about things being done to them, or that they had told stories that were untrue in the past.
The gardaí did not take steps to further interview the children, despite the fact that some children gave accounts that were not consistent with each other, the defence told the court. The reason given for this was that gardaí did not want to re-traumatise the children.
Anime images The man was also charged with possessing child sex abuse images in the form of Japanese anime images.
Live: Varadkar says ‘nobody can rule out’ fresh re…
Anime is a Japanese form of television and film animation.
The charge was dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the Circuit Criminal Court in June 2020.
Fionnuala O’Sullivan BL, for the prosecution, told the court that the DPP wished to enter a nolle prosequi on the charge, which had been severed from the original indictment back at the start of the first trial in February 2020.
No explanation was given in court for the decision to drop the charge, which alleged the man was in possession of child sex abuse images, namely 18 anime images on his laptop.