herald

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Assault charges halted after death of two witnesses

THE case against a woman who had been charged with a serious assault has been dismissed because two key witnesses died while the State delayed prosecution.

Denise Sharlott (23) had been charged with assault causing harm to a woman at a house in Artane, north Dublin, more than three years ago.

But Dublin District Court heard two men who witnessed the incident were now deceased -- including one who died following an unrelated assault in 2009.

Ms Sharlott, of Ribh Road in Artane had denied assaulting a woman on the same street in an incident on October 7, 2007.

Judge Timothy Lucey dismissed the case for want of prosecution after hearing that the only people who had witnessed the incident were dead.

The two were Keith Mills, who lost his life after he was seriously assaulted in January 2009 and Clayton McGill, who died in January 2010.

The case was due to go ahead when Defence barrister Leo Mulrooney objected on the basis of the delay of three years and three months was all due to the prosecution.



Burden

"Had the case been prosecuted in an expeditious manner, it is likely that both witnesses could have been called," he said. "The prosecution can't be blamed for circumstances that arise during a delay, but they must bear the burden of that delay."

Meanwhile, full disclosure of prosecution documents to the defence had only happened nine days before the hearing date.

Mr Mulrooney said the defendant had suffered stress and anxiety while the case had been "hanging over her".

She had intended putting up a defence of self-defence.

The State solicitor accepted that the two dead witnesses had been at the scene, although the prosecution had never had any contact with them. Gardai had been refused entry to the house on the night by somebody who was not the defendant.

He said the defence was placing all its emphasis on the two deceased witnesses and ignoring everyone else who had been in the house.

The court heard the evidence the witnesses had intended giving would have supported the defendant's version of events. Of the three civilian and two garda witnesses for the prosecution, only the alleged victim had seen the incident.

Judge Lucey concluded that the defence was "prejudiced" by not being able to call the witnesses and said: "I have no difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the trial should be stopped here and now."

aphelan@herald.ie

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