Belfast Telegraph

I'm vindicated at last, says woman who fought to bring rape charges to court

By Deborah McAleese

She confidently took on the IRA, Sinn Fein and now the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

But it was a tearful Mairia Cahill who met with PPS director Barra McGrory yesterday, two years after the criminal case against her alleged rapist collapsed.

A damning report into the way the PPS handled allegations made by Ms Cahill and two other women of rape and an IRA cover-up found a series of prosecution failures.

Mr McGrory admitted that the PPS had let the women down and said "for that, on behalf of the Service, I want to say sorry".

Ms Cahill and two other women claimed that they had been sexually abused by IRA member Martin Morris when they were in their teens in the late 1990s.

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

Ms Cahill, in addition to the rape charge against Mr Morris, alleged that four other IRA members had "interrogated" her about her claims, and that on one occasion she was compelled to face her alleged abuser so that the IRA could test who was telling the truth.

The cases against Morris and against the four alleged IRA members who allegedly questioned her - Padraic Wilson, Seamus Finucane, Agnes McCrory and Briege Wright - collapsed when Ms Cahill withdrew her evidence. All five were acquitted.

Sir Keir Starmer, QC, the former attorney general for England and Wales, was called in by Mr McGrory to investigate how the PPS dealt with the allegations made by Ms Cahill and the two other alleged victims.

He found that through a series of prosecution failings the three women had been "let down by the PPS and counsel".

After reading the report, an emotional Ms Cahill said: "The apology is welcome but it is pretty upsetting that you end up in this situation. Four years of a court case is a very traumatic experience."

Unless new evidence emerges, Morris will never stand trial for the allegations that the women made.

"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," said Ms Cahill.

She added: "I'm gutted. I cried when I met Barra McGrory. I think it is going to take a very long time before I can reconcile myself with the fact I was right and that 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."

Ms Cahill said that the last seven months, after she went public with her claims, were "horrendous" for her.

"There was a tsunami of media attention and there was also a tsunami of attacks on me. Attacking a sexual abuse victim in public is a despicable thing to do," she said.

It has been five years since the three women first placed their faith in the criminal justice system and reported Morris to the police for alleged rape when they were children between 1997 and 2000.

Ms Cahill further claimed that the reason it took a decade to come forward was because her allegations had been investigated by the IRA.

Morris was arrested and charged with rape and for being a member of the IRA.

Wright, Finucane, Wilson and McCrory were also charged with a range of offences, including membership of the IRA and intimidation.

The PPS decided to split the charges into three separate cases, with Morris facing two trials for rape and membership of the IRA.

The four other accused faced separate trial. That is when the case began to unravel.

There were months of delay progressing the cases through the courts.

And in October 2012 two PPS barristers in the case failed to oppose a defence application for the membership case to be heard before the sex abuse case. Mr Starmar said not opposing the application - with the effect that the sexual abuse case was held back and considerably delayed - "had the potential to have very real and damaging consequences for these cases."

"It was a case concerning the alleged sexual abuse of multiple complainants who were children at the time. The sexual abuse was, at least for the complainants, by far more central and more serious than the membership offences," he said.

All three women eventually withdrew their evidence due to the delay and other frustrations.

Mr Starmar said: "Given the failings in this case, it was almost inevitable that the [alleged victims] would pull out of the process.

"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."

The Police Ombudsman is currently investigating the PSNI's handling of the case. Once that report is finalised, Ms Cahill may consider taking civil action.

"We will be looking at the ramifications," Ms Cahill's solicitor Joe Rice said.

He added: "Today Mairia's reputation has been restored. She has been vindicated as a witness who would have given evidence."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph