The re-trial of a 69-year-old Waterford man charged with soliciting and trafficking a child for sexual exploitation collapsed for a second time in as many weeks in Waterford Circuit Criminal Court last week.
The accused man, whose name and address cannot be published for legal reasons, was remanded on bail by Judge Eugene O’Kelly to January 12th next. The offence is alleged to have been committed in the People’s Park in Waterford, on June 28th, 2013.
A jury of seven men and five women was discharged following legal argument in their absence over a missing witness and the disclosure of a statement.
The Judge told the jury that the State had applied for an adjournment of the re-trial but this was opposed by the defence, who sought a permanent stay on the prosecution.
The accused man was elderly and he was charged with a most serious offence. If he was convicted he would be exposed to a significant prison sentence and would be seen in a harsh and critical light by society.
The accused came before the court with the presumption of innocence and he was anxious to have the mater dealt with and he wanted to stand trial and put this matter behind him once and for all.
When a jury was empanelled two weeks ago for the trial there was uncertainty about disclosure of a statement. That jury was discharged on the issue of non-disclosure, said the Judge.
The accused man was not a victim of a deliberate attempt by the State to afford him a trial. Perhaps, there was an unrealistic time limit set for the re-trial. Questions such as identity and meetings in the People’s Park had to do with credibility of witnesses.
There was also an issue over the absence of a male witness who was on holiday in Lanzarote. He could not be expected to put his life on hold and no blame could attach to him for his absence.
The State was prepared to proceed without his evidence but the defence said he was an essential witness and should be questioned on the issue of credibility.
Judge O’Kelly said he believed an adjournment in this case would be fair to the accused man in order to afford him an opportunity to question the witnesses and the court acceded to the request for the adjournment.
It was a matter for the Director of Public Prosecution if the case was to be re-tried. One of the difficulties in the case was that the defence was being put under pressure to have an early trial date and it had got to the point where the speed of the re-trial was beyond the capacity of the Court Services.
The Judge warned the members of the Jury not to disclose any details of the trial which had been revealed in court. It was essential that they did not discuss this case with anybody because it might become known to a future juror.