Monday, March 9, 2009

'I can only imagine the rage, the injustice, the pain and shame he must have felt'

Comment: The title of this post was taken from a quote by a false accuser motivated by revenge. The story of this terrible lie is must-reading and we offer little comment because it really speaks for itself.

Two points: First, the young woman had it within her power at any time for years and years to release this young man for the pain of a false rape conviction and finally, her guilt ate away at her. If a male waits even several seconds to withdraw from intercourse after the woman tells him to "stop," it is rape. How can we excuse this young woman who waited years and years to withdraw her lie? Second, as you read this, keep in mind this nagging question the story's author points out: "Just how he was convicted by a jury of sexual assault in the first place, uncorroborated by forensic or medical evidence, raises other disturbing questions."

Bitter land feud behind wrongful sexual assault conviction

Neighbour convicted after girl concocted tale of brutal sexual assault now faces battle with DPP to get case declared a miscarriage of justice

Sunday February 15 2009

IRELAND has a long history of feuding over land, often with brutal consequences. John B Keane chronicled the murderous fall-out of one man's hunger for land in The Field.

Last week, the Court of Criminal Appeal heard of the devastating effects that followed when a 10-year-old child became infected with the bitter enmity that divided two families and the rural west of Ireland community in which they lived.

Inspired by revenge and misplaced loyalty to her parents, the girl concocted an accusation of sexual assault against her neighour's son. She kept her guilty secret for decade, describing it as a "cancer" that dogged her until she finally confessed her lie. He carried the legacy of a four-year suspended sentence, his name irrevocably blackened in his community, judged for a crime that he did not commit.

Last week, the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed the man's conviction. In the coming weeks, he will seek to have his case declared a miscarriage of justice -- a move the DPP plans to contest.

Just how he was convicted by a jury of sexual assault in the first place, uncorroborated by forensic or medical evidence, raises other disturbing questions.

For a family who had arrived in 1993 to pursue the good life on a farm in the west of Ireland, the outcome could not have been worse. Their daughter, whom we shall call Amy as neither party in this tragic tale can be identified by court order, was then aged seven.

Her parents bought a small farm in a rural townland in the west of Ireland. Their life on the farm proved to be far from the rural idyll they imagined. Her mother later alleged to gardai that the dispute started when a neighbouring family tried to intimidate them out of buying the land.

In a statement to gardai two years ago, Amy recalled how the feud dominated her earliest memories: "They were involved in a feud over land that my parents had purchased. This feud was the subject of many, many bitter fights (mostly verbal, sometimes physical) between my father and mother and between my parents and (the neighbouring family). At the time, it felt like war."

She said she constantly wondered what would happen if her father or her neighbour's father "lost it" and resorted to weapons. Her neighbour's children probably had similar fears, she told gardai. But she never acknowledged them. "In all the years we lived side by side we never communicated, with the exception of a few childish insults and profane hand gestures from afar . . .

"I wish I had been capable of that empathy at the time. The feud . . . divided the entire community . . . There was no rest from it. Not in Church, not at school, not at play, not in the shops. It was the local drama, the best entertainment in town."

Her father later told gardai: "My daughter . . . has suffered tremendously beyond description of all this intimidation. She is constantly in fear now that I am going to jail."

In this hostile environment, Amy concocted her tale of sexual assault against her neighbour's then 21-year-old son, whom we shall call John. She later said that she wasn't coerced, coached or encouraged to do so; it sprang from her own unhappiness.

On January 27, 1997, Amy, aged 10, stumbled muddy and wet to her friend's house, visibly distraught and distressed. Over the following days, she told gardai how she was walking to her friend's house when John grabbed her from behind. She claimed that he placed one hand inside her trousers and sexually assaulted her. She told them she was in pain but could not scream, as he had his hand over her mouth. She continued that he brought her to a well nearby, and pushed her head into the water, and began beating her. He let go of her and she ran away, she claimed.

John was arrested; he denied the allegations repeatedly. One garda told him he was not convinced that a 10-year-old child could fabricate it. "Do you think she could assault herself and blame you?" he was asked during questioning. "I haven't done anything," he replied.

Amy later told how, months afterwards, she fell into "deep depression, brought on by my home life, and increasing feelings of isolation and impending doom".

She went to America to stay with relatives for a year but was back to give evidence at John's trial at Galway Circuit Court. She maintained her deception; John pleaded not guilty but a jury convicted him of common assault and sexual assault.

He received a four-year suspended sentence.

John lived in the shadow of his conviction, his name in the tight-knit community blackened by the false allegation. Amy later claimed that the deception did not rest easy with her, she had "lived with this cancerous guilt every day for the last 10 years.

"It has been present every moment. It has eaten away at me . . ." she said.

The lie was finally unmasked in November 2006. Amy returned to Galway in November 2006, when she was 20. She met John's sister and confessed. She went to gardai and told them not only was the allegation untrue but she had never even spoken to John. They never had any contact because of the trouble between their families.

"My motivation for making these allegations was revenge and misplaced loyalty to my family . . . I wanted to get back at (the neighbours) for the trouble they were causing my family.

"It has taken me this long to withdraw my allegations because I was a coward," she said in her statement.

"I know how awfully wrong what I did was and I am deeply, deeply remorseful, more than anyone will understand. I know that (John) has lived with the shadow of his conviction over his life for many years now and I can only imagine the rage, the injustice, the pain and shame he must have felt. I want to see justice done now."