Paedophile loses sentence appeal

  • Lost appeal: Morris O’Brien, 53, is led from Supreme Court No. 1 in the Sessions House earlier this year after a jury convicted him of the rape of an underage girl in 1988 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Lost appeal: Morris O’Brien, 53, is led from Supreme Court No. 1 in the Sessions House earlier this year after a jury convicted him of the rape of an underage girl in 1988 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A man imprisoned this year for the rape of a 15-year-old girl more than 30 years ago has lost an appeal against his conviction.

Morris O’Brien argued that his lawyer, Kamal Worrell, had failed to follow his instructions about the cross-examination of the victim.

However, the Court of Appeal found that it was unlikely any of the alleged failures of Mr Worrell would have affected the jury’s verdict.

Appeal Judge Geoffrey Bell wrote in a judgment delivered yesterday: “The jury, in reaching its verdict, would no doubt have considered with care the critical question, which was whether they believed the complainant or the appellant, and that question would have been answered without reference to the minutiae of how the cross-examination of the complainant was conducted.”

The judge added: “In my view, the jury would have reached the same verdict as they did even if Mr Worrell had conducted his cross-examination of the complainant just as the appellant wished.

“I very much doubt that the complainant’s evidence would have been materially different in those circumstances, or that the jury would have taken a different view of her or the appellant’s truthfulness.”

The court heard that O’Brien raped the teenage victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, in September 1988.

The victim said that on the night of the rape she was at home asleep in her bedroom when she heard a knock on the front door.

She went to the door and found O’Brien — a family friend — and said that her sister was asleep and the rest of her family were out of the house.

The woman said he then forced his way through the door, pushed her into the living room and raped her. At the time of the attack, he was 23.

The court heard O’Brien “stalked” her after the incident and gave her a “love letter”, but she told no one about the attack for almost a year.

The victim’s mother told a police officer who was close to the family and he urged the family to go to a lawyer.

The family applied for a restraining order against O’Brien, but the victim did not make a statement about the attack to police until last April.

O’Brien accepted that he had sexual relations with the victim while she was still underage and that he had written her the “love letter”, but denied that he had forced himself upon her.

But he was convicted by a unanimous verdict after four hours of deliberation by the jury and sentenced to eight years in prison.

He launched an appeal against his conviction on the basis that Mr Worrell had acted negligently as counsel.

O’Brien claimed he had given Mr Worrell “clear instructions” on how to cross-examine the Crown witnesses, but that the lawyer failed to follow the instructions.

He said he had instructed Mr Worrell to question the victim about her sexual history and their interactions at family gatherings after the rape in an effort to discredit her.

Mr Worrell said that he and O’Brien had agreed on how the case would be run, and that if there was a conflict, he would have suggested O’Brien find other counsel.

But he did accept that he had made an error in that he failed to tell defence witnesses that they were not to sit in the public gallery when O’Brien took the stand.

Mr Justice Bell said: “In the broad terms, I would accept Mr Worrell’s evidence. It seemed to me that the appellant overstated the lack of communication between the two.

“There were areas where the appellant accepted he had not given instructions to Mr Worrell in respect of matters of which he had originally made complaint.”

He added: “At the end of the day, the question for this Court is whether the alleged failures on Mr Worrell’s part were sufficient to render the trial process unfair and the verdict of the jury unsafe. In my judgment, neither of those matters has been established in this appeal.”

It is The Royal Gazette’s policy not to allow comments on stories regarding criminal court cases. This is to prevent any statements being published that may jeopardise the outcome of that case.

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