Bail pending appeal granted to retired Louth consultant surgeon jailed for abusing patients

Court of Appeal

Donard McCabe

Reporter:

Donard McCabe

Louth surgeon on trial after alleged indecent assault of six teenage boys

Retired consultant surgeon Michael Shine, jailed last month for indecently assaulting two patients in the 1970s, has been granted bail pending an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Shine (85), of Wellington Road in Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to eight counts of indecently assaulting six patients at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and at his private clinic, both in Drogheda, Co Louth, on dates between 1964 and 1991.

A jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court found him guilty of indecently assaulting two 15-year-old boys in the 1970s, the trial judge directed a not guilty verdict in respect of one complainant and the jury acquitted him on the remaining counts.

On November 2, he was given consecutive 10 month sentences in respect of each victim totalling 20 months imprisonment. The maximum sentence for the offence at the time was two years.

Shine, whose health was described as “perilous” on a previous occasion, has lodged an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Granting bail pending his appeal in the three-judge court today, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said Shine's lawyers had drafted 17 grounds of appeal against conviction and sentence, two of which, it was contended, presented a strong possibility of the conviction appeal being successful.

Counsel for Shine, Hugh Hartnett SC, submitted that the trial judge erred in permitting the prosecution to reexamine three complainants in order to adduce evidence that they had settled civil proceedings against the hospital where Shine had worked and that the settlements amounted to €70,000 each.

Shine had no involvement in agreeing the settlements which were made in 2012.

During his cross examination of the complainants, Mr Hartnett referred to a “media backed campaign” to identify individuals who were prepared to make allegations of indecent assault against Shine.

This line of cross examination was pursued to establish copy cat evidence, suggestibility and the precise circumstances in which the complainants went to the gardaí, the same solicitors and same psychiatrist.

Mr Hartnett said it was “extraordinary” that the defence could be “muffled” from establishing the circumstances in which a complaint is made for fear of a third party settlement coming into the equation. He said the evidence was highly prejudicial to Shine's defence and such prejudice greatly exceeded any probative value.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Bernard Condon SC, submitted that the evidence was permitted to show the complainants were not financially motivated and that the trial judge had advised the jury not to draw any adverse inferences from the fact of the settlements.

Mr Condon maintained that the evidence of the civil actions was permitted to refute the suggestion that criminal allegations were made to support their quest for financial reward.

Mr Justice Mahon said the Court of Appeal was disadvantaged by the lack of a transcript from what was a lengthy trial. However, the court accepted that Shine's lawyers had established at least a strong chance of success on this ground of appeal.

He said the precise nature of this ground was “quite novel in many respects” and whether or not it would be successful must await a full hearing of the appeal.

In relation to sentence, Mr Justice Mahon said the Court of Appeal was of the view that it was strongly arguable that the total custodial term of 20 months, given the nature of the offending, was unduly harsh in respect of offences that carried a maximum of two years and where Shine was elderly and of poor health.

Futhermore, it was probable that his sentence, with normal remission for good behaviour, would have been served by the time a sentence appeal hearing, after a conviction appeal hearing, could be heard.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court would grant bail on a number of conditions.

Shine was required to reside at his home address, appear at each court date, sign on once a week at a local garda station, undertake not to apply for a passport, and expeditiously prosecute his appeal.

He undertook to be so bound.