A Tipperary man has launched a bid to have his conviction overturned for the rape of his teenage foster daughter after plying her with alcohol at their family home four years ago.
The Court of Appeal heard an application by Richard Moloney (42) of Roscrea, County Tipperary to have guilty verdicts on rape and two other sexual offences declared unsound.
Moloney, a father of three, was found guilty by a jury at the end of a trial in July 2019 of one count of rape, one count of oral rape and one count of sexually assaulting his then 16-year-old foster daughter at their home on July 16, 2016.
He was acquitted on a fourth count of alleged anal rape.
Moloney was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in jail for the offences at a sitting of the Central Criminal Court last November.
Moloney’s victim - his wife’s niece Ciara Monaghan - waived her anonymity so her foster father could be named publicly.
The trial heard evidence that Ms Monaghan and a friend were home alone with her foster father for a weekend when he plied them with beer and vodka.
After her friend got sick and went to bed, Moloney attacked his foster daughter and kissed her before forcing her to give him oral sex and then taking her into his bedroom where he raped her.
Moloney claimed to gardaí that his foster daughter was highly sexualised and he had woken up after falling asleep on a couch to find her on top of him with no bottoms on.
In a victim impact statement, Ms Monaghan outlined how she had made multiple suicide attempts since she was raped.
Ms Monaghan also described how she had regarded Moloney as a father figure and how she had hoped he would be “the one to walk me up the aisle”.
At the appeal hearing on Thursday, lawyers for Moloney claimed the convictions were unsound due to the nature of how the jury was charged by the trial judge.
Andrew Sexton SC, for Moloney, said statements by Mr Justice Alex Owens when charging the jury characterised the case as one of two competing versions of evidence.
Mr Sexton said the cumulative effect of such statements was to create “a very real risk” that the jury felt obliged to choose from one of these competing versions of what had happened without considering the possibility that a third version of events might exist.
Counsel said Mr Justice Owens’ words could have “set a trap” for the jury to believe they faced a decision of having to choose between the evidence of Moloney and his foster daughter.
Mr Sexton said the direction from the judge ought to have been wider and not one where the jury felt they faced an “either/or” decision.
In a submission, counsel argued that Mr Justice Owens had not emphasised sufficiently to the jury that rejecting Moloney’s evidence did not necessarily indicate his guilt.
Opposing the appeal, Conor Devally SC, for the DPP, said the trial judge had correctly stated that the burden of proof at all times rested on the prosecution to prove the charges and that the jury needed to be satisfied of Moloney’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Mr Devally said Mr Justice Owens had also provided correct instructions on how a jury should deal with competing versions of events.
He noted that the jury had shown its ability to reject some evidence on the basis it had acquitted Moloney of a charge of anal rape, while finding him guilty of three other offences.
Separately, Moloney’s lawyers also appealed the severity of the 12-year sentence imposed on their client, claiming the headline sentence of 14 years set by the judge was excessive.
While Mr Sexton acknowledged that the breach of trust involving Moloney was the main aggravating factor, he claimed the judge had failed to have regard for its “special context”.
Unlike other cases of a breach of trust, Mr Sexton said Moloney’s case represented offences on a single date which did not involve increasing levels of abuse over an extended period of some years.
Mr Sexton said Moloney’s role as a foster carer over many years have been very positive, and there was evidence and references that what had happened were “out of character”.
Opposing any reduction in sentence, Mr Devally said the events had resulted in Ms Monaghan’s trust in her foster father being “explosively destroyed”.
Mr Devally said the aggravating nature of the breach of trust was “at the very high end” of the scale.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, presiding with Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, reserved judgement on the appeal.