A man jailed for 15 years for rape did not receive a fair trial after the complainant branded him a murderer and a member of the Russian mafia from the witness box, the Court of Appeal was told on Tuesday.
The man, a 71-year-old Polish national, had pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape, contrary to common law and four counts of rape, contrary to Section 4 of the Criminal Law (Rape) (Amendment) Act 1990, against a woman who was working as his cleaner.
But he was found guilty following a trial and jailed by Ms Justice Tara Burns, who noted he had treated the victim like a “slave” and “a sex object” between September 2012 and January 2016.
He is now appealing the conviction on the grounds that the jury in his trial at the Central Criminal Court in July 2019 should have been discharged after the complainant alleged during cross-examination that the defendant had Russian mafia links and had murdered a man in that country .
The allegations were made “without notice”, Michael Bowman SC, for the appellant, told the Court of Appeal. “These are matters that are highly prejudicial,” he said.
Mr Bowman explained the claims were made when the complainant was asked by the defense if she knew the accused worked as a “garageman”.
In response, the complainant said the accused was a “beast” and a “drug dealer” who had “murdered a man in Russia and was in the Russian mafia”.
It was of “no consequence” if the accusations were “accidental or deliberate”, counsel continued, because afterwards “everything is out in the open” and that his client’s right to a fair trial “had been compromised”.
When asked by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy whether the jury should have been discharged at that point, Mr Bowman replied that although juries were “robust instruments, a point must be reached when a tipping point has been passed” and “falls in favor of a discharge “.
Patrick McGrath SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, told the court that if there “was any merit in the complaint the accused suffered from an unfair trial”, as a result of the claims made by the complainant, “a decision ought to have been made at that point in time to make a discharge application.”
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The judge, he said, had told “the jury these matters were to be put from their minds and were not relevant to the decision they were to make in the case”.
“The defense is now seeking to reconstruct the way the case was fought,” Mr McGrath continued.
“The learned trial judge made a reasoned decision that this court ought to uphold and not interfere with.”
Judgment has been reserved.