Army officer accused of sex assault facing total of 18 charges
May 10 2022 02:30 AM
An army officer accused of sexually assaulting a female soldier is facing a total of 18 charges in relation to an alleged incident that occurred at a military barracks in Dublin two years ago in which another female colleague was also assaulted.
The entering of pleas to the various charges by the commissioned officer was deferred at a sitting of a court martial at McKee Barracks in Dublin yesterday.
The accused, who cannot be identified as a result of reporting restrictions imposed by Military Judge Colonel Michael Campion is facing charges including sexual assault under the Criminal Law (Rape Amendment) Act 1990 and assault under Section 2 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 which allegedly occurred at McKee Barracks on June 25, 2020.
The two alleged victims, who are senior non-commissioned officers, were on duty at the time.
The officer, a married man with children, is also charged with offences under the Defence Act 1954 relating to drunkenness and conduct contrary to good order and discipline.
Some charges are alternatives to civil law offences under the Defence Act.
At the start of the hearing, the officer’s solicitor, Fergus O’Regan, applied to court to come off record as he explained he had become aware of a “conflict of interest” in the case.
Judge Campion granted an application by counsel for the accused, Kevin Roche BL, for a new legal team to come on record.
Mr Roche was also granted an application to defer entering pleas to the various charges in order to allow the accused’s legal team to examine papers on the case.
Commandant Seán Coffey, counsel for the Director of Military Prosecutions, expressed concern about any delay to the case as account had to be taken of the two alleged victims for whom the proceedings had been “quite onerous to deal with.”
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“Any further delay is likely to exacerbate that,” said Comdt Coffey.
Judge Campion adjourned the arraignment hearing until June 7 and also granted the officer free legal aid for two barristers due to the number of charges he was facing.
If the case goes to trial, the accused will appear before a sitting of a General Court Martial – a rarely used form of military court reserved for the most serious offences and offences involving senior-ranking officers.
It consists of a military judge presiding over a court-martial board composed of at least five members of the Defence Forces who act as the jury.
As the accused is a commissioned officer, the board must also be composed of commissioned officers with at least one member holding the rank of colonel.
Findings of fact by the court-martial board require a two-thirds majority, while the military judge rules on any matter of law and will also determine the sentence, if any, to be imposed.
Sentences up to and including life imprisonment can be imposed by a General Court Martial, although the maximum jail sentence in the current case is five years.