A mother who admitted sexually abusing her sons has been acquitted after evidence was ruled inadmissible
A mother-of-three has been acquitted of sexually abusing her children despite evidence that she admitted to abusing them during a polygraph test, the Court of Appeal heard on Thursday.
The woman was acquitted after a judge ruled that confessions made during an interview with a forensic psychologist using a polygraph were inadmissible as evidence.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is now looking into whether the judge “erroneously excluded compelling evidence” when the woman went on trial last July.
The prosecutor also asked for the acquittal to be set aside, along with an order that the respondent be retried with respect to the grievances in the original indictment.
In documents submitted to the Court of Appeal, it was stated that gardaí had visited the respondent in a house she shared with her husband and children following a tip from Europol that someone someone there was uploading child abuse images from the internet.
The footage showed young children in a domestic setting being sexually abused by an adult.
In one of the videos, a child can be heard crying as he is being abused.
Shortly after gardaí attended the address in south west Ireland, the children were placed in custody by order of the High Court.
The respondent then agreed to take a lie detector test conducted by a forensic psychologist using a polygraph after denying gardaí any knowledge of the abuse and claiming that her husband was solely responsible.
However, she later admitted to the psychologist that not only did she know her husband had an interest in child pornography, but she also knew that he abused their children and that she sometimes participated in the abuse.
She also admitted to abusing the children when her husband was away and when she was alone with them.
Following her admissions, she was charged with four counts of sexually assaulting three boys, contrary to section 2 of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1990 (as amended), and one count allowing a child in his care to be abused, abused and neglected, contrary to section 246 (1) and (2) of the Children Act 2001.
The alleged offenses took place between August 3, 2008 and March 25, 2015.
But after Judge Cormac Quinn of the Clonmel Circuit Criminal Court, sitting in Waterford, heard evidence from his interviews with the psychologist during a voir dire – a trial within a trial where the evidence is heard in the absence of the jury – he ruled that the evidence should not go before the jury.
Following the decision, he accepted a request for “no answer” from the defense. The woman was acquitted of all charges after this claim was not contested by the DPP.
Michael Delaney SC, for the DPP, told the Court of Appeal that the respondent “clearly knew of her husband’s activities”.
He said she knew she was going to be interviewed by a specialist psychologist about the abuse allegations and that she knew the expert was going to use a polygraph.
“It must have raised the possibility that the general denials she had given to Gardai were not enough,” the lawyer said.
“She must have had an idea of where the process was going. A choice was offered to her after seeing how the wind was blowing, and she could have discussed it with her lawyer.
Referring to the confessions made to the psychologist, Mr Delaney said they ‘would have been enough to convince a jury’.
“It comes down to a question of fairness and it is appropriate for this court to take a fresh look at it,” he added.
Michael Durack SC, for the respondent, said his client only agreed to polygraph interviews because she had a “great desire to see her children” and was told her chances of being reunited with them would improve if she agreed to “participate in the deal”.
“The consent process does not go beyond the fact that she wants to see her children. She wants to participate in the evaluation, ”added the lawyer.
Mr Durack also said there was ‘no doubt she was told she would not be prosecuted’ after agreeing to meet the psychologist.
“If the gardai had adopted the process adopted by [the psychologist]evidence would not be allowed,” he said.
During oral argument, the Presiding Judge, Judge George Birmingham, seated with Judge Patrick McCarthy and Judge Isobel Kennedy, noted that the respondent “admitted her involvement in the crime when she had not even been suspected”.
“What’s unfair about that?” He asked.
Judgment was reserved.