Northern Ireland

Liam Adams trial jury 'not told how to deal with publicity'

Liam Adams, pictured at an earlier hearing Image copyright PA
Image caption Liam Adams is appealing against his conviction for raping his daughter Aine

Jurors who found a brother of Gerry Adams guilty of raping his own daughter were not properly directed on how to deal with widespread publicity in the case, the Court of Appeal has heard.

Lawyers for Liam Adams said the level of media coverage on both sides of the Irish border even before his trial turned it into "a national issue".

They also argued guidance to the jury may have wrongly shifted the burden onto him to prove he was innocent of a string of sexual assaults on his daughter Áine. The appeal continues.

Liam Adams, 59, formerly of Bernagh Drive in Belfast, is serving a 16-year jail sentence for the offences against his daughter, who waived her right to anonymity.

The abuse was said to have been committed over a six-year period between 1977 and 1982 when she was aged between four and nine.

Second trial

He consistently denied the allegations throughout a second trial at Belfast Crown Court in 2013.

However, a jury convicted him of 10 offences against his daughter: three charges of rape, four counts of indecent assault and a further three counts of gross indecency.

At the start of his appeal on Wednesday, he smiled at his wife Bronagh and other relatives who had gathered in the public gallery to support him.

Opening the case, his barrister said they were challenging what she said was the trial judge's failure to direct the jury on how they should assess issues about the extensive publicity before and after a first trial that had collapsed due to legal reasons.

She said a television documentary had sparked widespread media attention.

Publicity

Her client's brother, Gerry Adams, revealed in an interview that his father subjected family members to sexual abuse, the court heard.

Giving evidence as a prosecution witness at the first trial, the Sinn Féin president claimed his brother confessed to him that he had "molested" his daughter.

Focusing on the level of publicity, the barrister said that by the time of the second trial, any jury member would have heard about the case and her client's earlier battle against being extradited from the Republic of Ireland.

"What makes this case different from a case where someone who is well-known to the public is being tried for serious criminal offences... (is) the complainant, against the advice of police as it turned out, made a television programme," she said.

The barrister also claimed that the trial judge got it wrong in how she directed jurors on dealing with Liam Adams' witness box account.

"It's at the very least open to the danger that the jury may have thought in this case, because the defendant gave evidence, that in some way the burden of proof reverted to him," she said.

The case continues.

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