independent

Friday 20 September 2019

Judge won't move O'Connor trial

O'CONNOR CLAIMS HE WON'T GET FAIR HEARING

THE ONLY Wexford man to have been jailed in connection with the death of Rebecca French has failed in a bid to get another case transferred out of the town.

Wexford Circuit Court was told that Patrick O'Connor, pictured right, of 17 Ard na Dara, Clonard, was at risk of receiving an unfair trial in Wexford due to the 'massive' media coverage of Ms French's death and the subsequent trial.

However, Judge Alice Doyle ruled that the trial should go ahead in Wexford.

O'Connor is charged with assaulting Rajmund Spiaczia, causing him harm, at Skeffington Street on September 23, 2009. He has pleaded not guilty. THE ONLY local man to be jailed in connection with the death of mother-of-two Rebecca French has failed in a court bid to have another trial moved out of Wexford.

Patrick O'Connor, of 17 Ard na Dara, Clonard, was afraid he would not get a fair trial in his home town because of the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms French and the subsequent legal proceedings, Wexford Circuit Court heard last week.

O'Connor is before the court on a charge of assaulting Rajmund Spiaczla, causing him harm, at Skeffington Street in Wexford on September 23, 2009. He has entered a plea of not guilty.

When the case was called last week, defence counsel Ms Geraldine Fahy submitted there was a risk of the defendant receiving an unfair trial in Wexford. As he had pleaded guilty previously to impeding the investigation into Ms French's death, and was serving a sentence in relation to this offence, and also since both the death and subsequent trial received 'massive' media coverage, there would be 'serious difficulty' in forming a jury whose

members would not have preconceived notions about the defendant. She said this was particularly relevant as O'Connor is the only local man to have been sentenced in connection with the death of Ms French, as the other three serving time are all foreign nationals. He is well known in Wexford, and his family are well known through having run a construction business. The press coverage of the Rebecca French trial, she said, centred around the collapse of the trial and ' there may be a perception that the defendant was the cause of the collapse'.

She also said there could be a possible prejudice in the minds of potential jury members because no-one was convicted of murder. She pointed out that they were not asking that the trial not go ahead; merely that it be moved to Dublin.

Opposing the application, Mr Philip Sheehan, for the DPP, said the media coverage of the Rebecca French was in no way inaccurate or misleading. He said any jury sworn in would be told the importance of being impartial and deciding the case on the evidence of that particular case only. He also said it could take up to two more years for this assault charge to actually come to trial, and that he did not think there was any real risk of an unfair trial.

Judge Alice Doyle agreed that juror would be properly instructed prior to the trial commencing when it eventually goes ahead. 'I don't see any need to transfer the trial to Dublin. I refuse the application,' she ruled.

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