(CNS): A 57-year-old man was acquitted by a judge Wednesday after a successful application by his defence attorney that he had no case to answer in a challenging and very sensitive case of child abuse. The man, who cannot be named because of the potential to identify the little girl, was having a relationship with the child’s mother when, at just eight years old, she told a social worker he was abusing her. But the judge found many problems with the case that led him to conclude that he could not be convinced beyond reasonable doubt the accused man was guilty.
Justice Charles Quin pointed to the weaknesses in the child’s evidence and the way it had been presented. There was no corroborating evidence to support the child’s allegations and there was considerable evidence in the case that the girl was also being abused by other relatives, confirmed by the child’s mother, who also told the court that she believed the girl was lying about her boyfriend abusing her and he had raised his concerns that the child was being abused by others.
The mother admitted that she too had been abused and that all five of her children had been taken into care at some point because of sexual abuse in the family. She also noted that her eldest son has mental health problems and frequently masturbates in public areas, which the little girl had also seen.
The judge said it was a “tragic and disturbing case” and it was clear the child was emotionally disturbed but there was considerable evidence from experts that the little girl was able to relate a false narrative as if it were true and to manipulate circumstances to try to get what she wanted.
Several of them reported extreme behaviour and the child’s ability to tell lies. In this case there was reason to believe that the child wanted to live with her own father and not the defendant. The defence argued that she was accustomed to lying to get what she wanted and that she knew such an allegation would get rid of the mother’s boyfriend.
Her behaviour when she was interviewed in the first instance following the allegation she made to a social worker, which was played to the court, and when she gave evidence via video link during the trial, which was two years after that, showed a very disturbed little girl who was extremely challenging to manage in an interview situation.
This had led to a distortion of the evidence as the interviewer had used encouraging terms when the child spoke about her abuser and had asked questions that could be considered leading rather than taking down the details of a spontaneous report of abuse.
It was very difficult, Justice Quin stated in his ruling, for the court to follow her evidence and he said it left him with the “uncomfortable feeling” over her reliability. He said there was “no doubt” that the child had suffered parental neglect and abuse but there was no evidence to corroborate her claim that the defendant was one of her abusers.
The judge also raised his concerns about the delays in the case coming to trial, which were not the fault of anyone involved but because further investigations had to be made after the defendant was charged.
Unable to convict the accused man, Justice Quin entered a not guilty verdict in all five counts, which included a charge of attempted rape and two counts of indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency.
The man, however, was remanded in custody as he has other matters in the courts that have yet to be heard. CNS understands that the outstanding charges relate to another sexual abuse allegation on a child.