Saturday, February 28, 2009

Priest fails to have conviction for raping schoolgirl overturned

A Donegal priest yesterday lost his appeal against his conviction for raping a schoolgirl in a church sacristy over 20 years ago.

The Court of Criminal Appeal dismissed the appeal brought by Fr Daniel Doherty (49), with an address at Derriscleigh, Carrigart, Co Donegal, against his conviction on two charges each of rape and indecent assault.

In May 2006, a jury found Doherty guilty of raping the then 13-year-old girl in the sacristy on dates in 1985, of indecently assaulting her in the parochial house in 1985, and in his car on a date in December 1984.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison and the trial judge, Mr Justice Philip O'Sullivan, certified Doherty to be registered as a sex offender.

Doherty denied all the charges and appealed against his conviction. The DPP opposed the appeal.

In his appeal, Doherty claimed certain evidence put before the jury should not have been included as it was highly prejudicial to him. He also claimed the trial judge's charge to the jury was flawed.

Yesterday, the Court of Criminal Appeal said it was satisfied that no grounds which would render Doherty's conviction unsafe, had been made out.

The trial judge, Mr Justice O'Sullivan, had "not misdirected himself in law in any respect" nor was his charge to the jury in any way "insufficient" or "open to challenge", it said.

During Doherty's 2006 trial, his victim said that he stopped his car at a pier while driving her home one night in December 1984 and then climbed over on top of her kissing her and touching her body. She said he told her not to tell anyone, and that anybody would believe a priest before believing her.

She said he raped her for the first time in the toilet at the sacristy in 1985, while the second rape happened in the sacristy after she and another had attended confession.

A complaint made to her teachers during the 1980s did not result in a proper investigation.

She later made her allegations formally in a letter to the Bishop of Raphoe, Dr Seamus Hegarty, in 2003, which led to the garda investigation.

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(Source: II)