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Mairia Cahill's brave battle for justice poses questions for PPS

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 23/05/2015

Mairia Cahill
Mairia Cahill

Mairia Cahill has shown astonishing courage in her fight for justice. She faced the trauma of being interrogated by the IRA, confronting her alleged rapist and, coming from a strong republican lineage, of giving evidence to the police in the hope of a successful prosecution.

Not only that but she also waived her right to anonymity when her faith in justice was shattered, leading to what she called a tsunami of media attention and a tsunami of attacks on her character. And in the end she was let down by the justice system. Her alleged attacker - who was also said to have raped two other women - never stood trial, in large part due to a series of shortcomings by the Public Prosecution Service.

A former Director of Public Prosecutions in England and Wales, Sir Keir Starmer, who conducted an investigation into the way the cases were handled, had sharp criticism of the PPS. He said lengthy delays in bringing the cases were unacceptable, the victims were let down, there were significant failings, and a lack of communication between prosecutor and the women.

In the guarded language of lawyers these are very strong words and to his credit the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland, Barra McGrory, took the criticism on the chin and apologised to Mairia and the other women.

No one could blame the women if their confidence in the system is shattered. They put their trust in justice and it was denied to them. Mairia, because she was the only woman identified, has been through hell and, along with the other women, deserves our utmost sympathy. They, of course, would rather have justice and closure.

On a wider issue, for a case to go ahead the PPS must be satisfied there is evidence to secure a conviction and that the case is in the public interest. Does this double test unnecessarily tie the hands of prosecutors and should it be looked at when the criticisms of this case are digested by the PPS?

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