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Victim Mairia 'gutted' that PPS failings mean accused won't face justice

By Deborah McAleese

Published 23/05/2015

Maria Cahill outside Belfast court yesterday with solicitor Joe Rice
Maria Cahill outside Belfast court yesterday with solicitor Joe Rice

Mairia Cahill has said she is "gutted" her alleged rapist will never be brought to justice because of a series of prosecution failures.

The Director of the Public Prosecution Service, Barra McGrory QC, yesterday apologised to Ms Cahill and two other women over how the PPS dealt with criminal allegations that they were sexually abused by an IRA member. Mr McGrory issued his apology after an independent review by Sir Keir Starmer QC found the three women were "let down by the PPS and counsel".

Although Ms Cahill said she welcomed the apology, she said she was saddened their alleged abuser will never stand trial.

"The saddest and most disturbing thing for me in all of this is that the person who caused me such great hurt and trauma and to his other victims, wasn't prosecuted successfully," she said.

She added: "I'm gutted. Had people listened to me from the start we may have been in the situation where all of those people were brought to successful prosecution."

She also said that Sinn Fein should accept the report's findings and apologise to her.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt called for Mr McGrory's resignation. "It is highly regrettable that the system has once again failed the victim. The buck stops with Barra McGrory and he should consider his position," Mr Nesbitt said.

He added: "He is a very well paid leader whose organisation has failed a victim who has taken terrible abuse for having the courage to publicly take on the IRA, without the support she deserved from the PPS.

Chairman of Stormont's Justice Committee, Alastair Ross, said: "Rarely has there been a clearer example of when justice delayed has been justice denied".

The DUP MLA added: "One finding after another highlights failings in the Public Prosecution Service and how victims were let down, whether that be in unnecessary delays, a failure to follow up leads or in the lack of proper communication with those who were already in a vulnerable state."

The allegations at the heart of this case are that Ms Cahill and two other women were sexually abused by IRA member Martin Morris when they were in their teens in the late 1990s.

Ms Cahill also claimed that four other IRA members - Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane, Agnes McCrory and Briege Wright - had "interrogated her about her claims and on one occasions forced her to face her alleged abuser so the IRA could test who was telling the truth.

The two other women, who have anonymity, pulled out of the case against Morris when it was being processed to trial.

The cases against all five collapsed when Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence. They were all acquitted. Sir Keir said it was "almost inevitable" the three women would pull out of the process because of lengthy delays, which he blamed on the PPS, in proceeding with the case.

"Each of them was prepared to support their allegations at the outset, but as their cases became increasingly weakened and delayed through no fault of their own, their willingness to continue understandably diminished," he said.

Sir Keir, who was elected as a Labour MP in the recent Westminster poll, said that there was "insufficient planning" in the cases. He also said there was "no evidence in the material reviewed to suggest that decisions or actions of members of the prosecution team were improperly motivated".

Mr McGrory apologised to the three women and said he took "very seriously the failings identified, particularly in the quality and timeliness of the decision-making at key points by senior members of the prosecution team". He said these were "difficult and complicated cases, perhaps unprecedented in their complexity".

He added that at the same time "it was a period of great change in the organisation".

Mr McGrory rejected any suggestions that he should resign.

"I have given my commitment to the victims in these cases and to the staff in the PPS that I will be seeing through changes that have already begun, along with those that will be implemented shortly," he said.

A senior counsel, a QC and a junior counsel who were representing the PPS in the failed cases have referred themselves to the Bar Council's professional conduct committee.

The Police Ombudsman is also investigating the police response to the allegations made by the three women.

Belfast Telegraph

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