February 4, 2014
Letterkenny District Court.

Letterkenny District Court.

A 65-year-old man was allowed to change his plea  after he became ‘overwhelmed by the tariffs’ involved with his case, a court heard.

A sitting of the Letterkenny Circuit Court heard that the man was accused of crimes of a sexual nature some 20 years ago, and the accusations caused him “acute distress”.

He initially entered a not guilty plea to the charges, but asked to change that plea to guilty on his last day in court on July 18, 2013.

Defence for the applicant, Ms. McMorrow, said that the request for change of plea arose after the man raised questions to his solicitor about the tariffs involved with the case.

When the possible financial ramifications were explained to him, the man was said to be “overly affected” and made an overnight decision to change his plea.

The man became extremely depressed and distressed over the case, and this caused his legal team some worry. He is now in extremely poor health, the court heard.

Ms. McMorrow called for the man to face a jury of his peers to determine his innocence or guilt. The court heard how the man maintained his innocence throughout the trial and had no previous convictions.

Referring to the man’s age, Judge John O’Hagan said that he is “still in the autumn of his years”. He said that the large crowds in the courtroom can place large amounts of pressure on people and they can become “terribly confused” about proceedings.

Judge O’Hagan said that such busy atmospheres can cause a “poor mitigant” to be “absolutely cringing in his boots”. “I couldn’t imagine what is going through the man’s mind as all this is going on,” he said.

The probation report stressed that the man was concerned by the hurt and concern that the proceedings were causing for his family and the alleged victims. All the while, he was said to be “shouting his innocence.”

The case was adjourned until April 1 and the man’s name was removed from the sex offender’s list.

By Rachel McLaughlin