A rape trial at the Central Criminal Court has collapsed, following what the judge in the case described as "unprecedented media coverage" in a national newspaper.

The jury had begun deliberating in the case, but this morning, Mr Justice Paul McDermott discharged them, telling them an article had been published in the Irish Independent, juxtaposing the facts of the current case with other cases which had gained a level of notoriety.

He said the ongoing case had been referred to in ways which indicated a fair trial was not being conducted and that there had been an unfairness in procedures at a level unacceptable to society at large. 

He said it was not acceptable that a trial of this nature should be subjected to that kind of publicity and exposure.

He said these were very difficult cases and it was absolutely imperative that the integrity of the trial was maintained.

Defence Counsel Annmarie Lawlor earlier said she was making the application to discharge the jury, very reluctantly.

She said there was no other way of reading the article complained of, other than the "implicit suggestion" that society has had enough of the incorrect acquittal of people and that her client was guilty. 

She said the jury had begun deliberating on Friday and she claimed the article amounted to an exhortation to convict her client. 

Ms Lawlor said the article had been published in the context of international coverage suggesting rape trials in Ireland were conducted unfairly.

She said the Independent had sought to hook this to the facts of her case with no mention of the presumption of innocence or her client's right to a fair trial.

Ms Lawlor said her client was someone who had been waiting for the trial for a considerable amount of time and wanted it to come to a conclusion but could not now be satisfied that a jury could assess the evidence fairly. 

She said it was unprecedented that such an issue had arisen when the jurors were considering their verdict and it was not appropriate for the judge to inquire of them if they had read the article. 

Prosecution counsel James Dwyer pointed out that Mr Justice McDermott had repeatedly told the jury to try the case on the facts heard in court and nothing else.

The judge had also stressed the presumption of innocence, he said, and had told jurors to leave aside any view they might have on the manner in which these trials were conducted. 

Mr Justice McDermott said the press was entitled to report on the facts of any case. But, he said, this went beyond that.

He said the type of comment in the article suggested, in a "crescendo of hyperbole", that society had had a "bellyful" in relation to rape trials and the juxtaposition of these views in relation to a trial at hearing caused him great concern.

He said he had a significant problem with addressing the jury after they had begun deliberations.  It was a most unsatisfactory position to have the court in and apart from the issue of contempt there was also the issue of scandalising the court as well, he said.

He said cases such as these were surrounded by raw emotions and deep hurt and steps were taken, including giving the parties anonymity and excluding people from the courtroom, to try to keep it as clinical as possible.  

Mr Justice McDermott said he was at a loss to understand why the Irish Independent chose to publish this article in circumstances where the jury was conducting deliberations.  

It had caused a situation to arise in which the complainant and the accused would have to go through another trial process if a decision was made to retry the man. And there would be the costs of another trial. 

He said the trial had been conducted with "commendable professionalism" on the part of the defence and the prosecution and any suggestion that there was any impropriety or inappropriateness was simply wrong.

He said there was an implicit criticism of mounting any defence in the face of the prosecution case, and that was the fundamental core of the right to a fair trial.