Belfast Telegraph

Man charged with rape of two girls to be 'protected' in prison

By Sarah Stack

A homeless man in the Republic will be given protection in prison after being charged with the rape of two young girls who were lured away from a children's birthday party.

The 30-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was brought before Longford District Court where he faced four counts of rape - two allegations against each of the children.

Judge Seamus Hughes remanded the accused in custody until Friday, when he will appear before Harristown District Court.

Noting "some marks" on the accused, the judge ordered he be put on suicide watch and afforded "all possible protections".

The judge said at the end of the eight-minute hearing: "I know it's a rather unusual thing to state but we are all living in the real world."

The suspect, who is originally from Co Galway, was charged at Athlone Garda station last night over alleged attacks on the youngsters, aged six and nine, on Saturday afternoon.

The children had been attending a birthday party at a housing estate on the outskirts of the town when they went missing.

Two other men arrested following the attacks were released without charge early yesterday.

Sergeant Yvette McCormack told the court the accused made no reply to each of the four charges.

More than 300 people staged a protest outside throughout the day while the suspect was being questioned by detectives.

The suspect was taken from Athlone Garda station in the early hours of the morning after protesters left, and arrived at Longford Courthouse flanked by members of the armed support unit.

Today, a smaller group of 50 people shouted abuse at the accused as he was driven away in a Garda van through a car park at the back of the courthouse.

Security was tight inside and outside the building, with members of the armed support unit in the courtroom.

The accused, who had a scrape next to his left eye and a tattoo on the right-hand side of his neck, was flanked by gardai as he entered the packed court.

Looking towards the ground, he stood with his hands clasped in front of him, and was dressed in a black jacket, jeans, black shirt and new white trainers.

Defence solicitor Gearoid Geraghty made an application for a psychiatric evaluation on his client and requested he be kept on suicide watch.

"I have a concern about his ability to enter a plea in respect of this and want a psychiatric assessment," he told the judge, who had asked for a reason.

The solicitor also said his client, who is of no fixed abode, was unemployed and applied for legal aid, which was granted.

He added that an application for bail had not even been contemplated.

Judge Hughes reminded the media of their duty in the case of both the defendant and the alleged victims.

Superintendent Noreen McBrien, of Athlone Garda station, told the judge that some comment in the media had come to her attention that could "be unhelpful" in the future progression of the trial.

Mr Geraghty said he was "conscious of not saying anything that will influence an already fraught situation" but revealed he had also raised concerns over pre-trial publicity with senior gardai.

"I'm worried about the integrity of the process, nothing else," the solicitor added.

The judge warned the media to have a duty of care in preserving the anonymity of the accused and both complainants.

"I well understand the heightened emotions of the case, as have been publicised in the media in the last 24 hours," Judge Hughes said.

"But I have every confidence that the public will assist gardai in their hard work and allow the legal process to take its course."

Judge Hughes added that there appears to be total freedom and an absence of rules and regulations on reporting until a suspect has been charged.

"He was charged here today," he added. "I've given the statutory warning. It only applies as from today."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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