Wire Service: UPse (UPI Southeastern US)

The United Press International

Date: Wed, Mar 16, 1994


DUBLIN, March 16 (UPI) -- The Irish Supreme Court Wednesday backed two lower court rulings and declared that a middle-aged businesman be tried for the alleged rape of a 14-year-old schoolgirl whose pregnancy and fight for an abortion brought changes in the Irish Constitution.

The teenager's plight forced the Irish coalition government to hold a referendum in November 1992 that resulted in Irish women being allowed to travel abroad for abortions and obtain information on terminating pregnancies.

Ireland still bans abortion.

Prior to the changes, the schoolgirl at the center of the case, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was prohibited from leaving Ireland for an abortion. She was allowed to do so after the Supreme Court overturned an earlier High Court ruling.

No date has been set for the trial of the 44-year-old businessman, who faces nine charges involving offenses committed between June 1990 and New Year's Day, 1992. He cannot be named for legal reasons.

The suspect had been ordered to trial at the Dublin Circuit Court, but appealed to the Irish High Court on the grounds that media interest in the case would prejudice the hearing.

High Court President Judge Liam Hamilton refused, and the accused took his case to the Supreme Court.

The appeal was unanimously rejected Wednesday by the five presiding members of the court.

Chief Justice Judge Thomas Finlay said it was likely that jury members would know about the case, but he said a trial judge would point out that the publicity was irrelevant to the trial and should be ignored.

The 'X' case arose when the parents of the rape victim sought police advice on whether or not DNA from an aborted fetus could be used to secure a conviction against her alleged rapist.

The information was passed to Irish Attorney General Harry Whelehan, who said the Irish Constitution would be breached if the girl traveled to England for an abortion.

The Irish Constitution holds that the state guarantees the right to the life of an unborn child.

Whelehan's position was supported by the Irish High Court, but later rejected by the Supreme Court, which ruled that since the girl had attempted suicide, her own life was threatened, and that she should therefore be allowed to terminate the pregnancy.

The ruling was widely condemned by the Catholic Church and anti- abortion groups because it offered a new interpretation on the Irish Constitution.