Trial judge acquits former civil servant accused of indecently assaulting a child

By Declan Brennan

A former civil servant accused of indecently assaulting a child at a Sisters of Mercy orphanage in the 1970s has been acquitted by direction of the trial judge.

Paul Finlay (79) of Jamestown Road, Inchicore, Dublin had pleaded not guilty to seven counts of indecently assaulting the then 13-year-old at St Anne’s Orphanage, Booterstown, Dublin on dates in between January 1977 and February 1987.

Dublin Criminal Courts of Justice 2 October 2016

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that Mr Finlay had an association with the orphanage and would visit it. In October 1977 he was transferred to Lesotho to work with a foreign-aid programme.

In her evidence the complainant said that she was sent to live in the home in 1977 and that soon after her arrival Mr Finlay began molesting her.

Under cross-examination she said she was unable to remember exact dates of events, but she maintained she was telling the truth about the assaults.

Paul Greene SC, defending, put it to her that her allegations could not be correct because Mr Finlay wasn’t in the country from October 1977.

The complainant replied: “I don’t know. Any time he was in St Anne’s I was abused by him. While I was in care in St Anne’s Paul Finlay sexually abused me. Until my dying day, that is the truth.”

She later added: “I don’t remember how many times he came back and forth to St Anne’s but I can tell you any time he did, I was abused.”

Judge Martina Baxter told the jurors that after a legal application she was withdrawing the case from them.

In her ruling Judge Baxter said she had serious concerns about the case going to a jury. She said the defence had submitted their client would not get a fair trial because of the delay in prosecuting.

She said there was a significant delay in the complaint being made so late and that memories can fade which made it difficult to reconcile the evidence with the high standard of proof required in a court of fact.

In her evidence the complainant said she knew Mr Finlay had gone away because one of the nuns had a tape recorder and “more or less made us send a message to him”.

The court heard she went before the Residential Institutions Redress Board and testified that Mr Finlay had assaulted her for her four years at St Anne’s.

Asked if she had testified about the behaviour of the nuns as well, the witness replied only: “horrendous.”

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