Sex abuse charge dropped after 'victim' is found hanged

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The Independent Online


The alleged victim of child abuse involving a Catholic cleric has killed himself, an Irish court was told yesterday.

A charge of sex abuse against Joseph Scally, 60, based at the headquarters of the De la Salle order at Castletown in Port Laois, in the Irish Republic was dropped at Newtownards magistrates' court in Co Down, Northern Ireland after the court heard the alleged victim had hanged himself 10 days ago.

Mr Scally, who worked at a children's home in the Ards Peninsula in Co Down, faced two new charges. He was accused of buggery of two boys under 16 between January 1971 and May 1979.

He appeared in court earlier this year charged with five similar offences. The charge dropped yesterday concerned a man now aged 30 who committed suicide. The new charges came as the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions defended his office against claims that prosecution rates in sex abuse cases were unjustifiably low.

Meanwhile, at Galway circuit court in the Irish Republic, a 40-year-old priest was charged with indecent assault against a teenage boy on 15 occasions between March 1988 and February 1989. The priest's solicitor requested the trial be moved to Dublin. The application was not opposed by the State Solicitor. The accused cannot be named for legal reasons.

In a rare public statement yesterday, Eamonn Barnes, the Irish Republic's Director of Public Prosecutions, rejected politicians' claims of an extraordinarily low rate of prosecution of such offences, and a reluctance to bring charges in cases involving children under the age of seven. Mr Barnes complained of an "absurd duplication" of legal functions between his agency - in which he and 10 legal assistants process 8,000 legal cases annually - and the State Solicitors, who take over cases at the prosecution stage in Ireland.

He said the division meant "I have, in short, little or no control over the implementation of my decisions", and argued that a single legal agency should oversee cases from start to finish, reducing delays and costs.

He added that while a social worker might believe sex abuse had occurred, other key considerations included whether a child was old enough to give evidence, and the time-lapse between an alleged offence and a case being brought.

Denying slowness in initiating prosecutions, he told Irish radio: "We are in the business of implementing the criminal law. That is particularly true in the horrible crime of sex abuse. Anyone with a grain of humanity in them would give a little bit extra effort in the prosecution of those crimes."

Mr Barnes warned: "You must always remember justice is even-handed. You must always have regard for the interests not alone of the victim, and the interests of the victim are critically important, but also of the suspect."