The jury in the trial of seven people accused of the assault and neglect of a number of children has been told the case against their 57-year-old grandmother has been withdrawn.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott told the jury he will be directing the woman be found not guilty on all three charges of sexual assault.

The judge told the jury as a matter of law he had to consider the nature of the evidence put forward during the course of the trial.

As a result of his consideration of the issues, he was withdrawing the case as he was entitled to do as a matter of law, he said.

The development followed a number of days of legal argument from defence counsel Lorcan Staines.

Last week, during cross-examination by defence counsel Maria Brosnan one of the complainants said she may have been mistaken about the involvement of her grandmother.

She said she could now not remember her doing anything.

Six people remain on trial on a total of 88 charges relating to a range of alleged offences against three children.

The parents of the children are also charged with willful neglect of five of their children. They deny the charges.

The trial is being held in temporary courtroom facilities at Croke Park to allow for social distancing.

Today, the cross-examination continues of a specialist garda who carried out recorded interviews with the children.

The garda, who has been a specialised child interviewer for 12 years, denied under cross-examination that she had "steered' one of the children towards an answer about her father.

The garda said she had never tried to influence an answer given by a child and her role was purely as a facilitator.

Asked why she did not ask further questions about a particular allegation, the garda said the child was very vulnerable and had made a number of allegations against numerous adults and guidelines allowed them to move on if a child was showing discomfort.

The garda agreed with defence counsel Mark Kelly who is representing the children's mother, that recorded interviews should be carried out with children as soon as possible after allegations come to light.

However, she said every case and every child was different and decisions about when a child could be interviewed were based entirely on the child’s welfare and supported by medical and psychological reports.

She agreed it was best practice to take an interview as soon as possible and these were often taken within days of allegations coming to light but sometimes it was a year or longer.

Asked why the interviews with the children were not carried out until six months after the allegations came to light, she said she had been informed by Tusla that the children were severely traumatised and were displaying emotional and behavioural problems.

She said the welfare of the children was more important than getting an interview and they had engaged with Tusla for months.

She said they were waiting for copies of the assessments being carried out by Tusla and had no responsibility for the timing of those assessments.

She said she could not answer for Tusla about why the assessments were not carried out until six months after gardaí came on the scene. Asked if that time frame struck her as quick, she replied: "Absolutely not."

Asked if she would conduct the interviews differently if she had her time over again, she replied: "Absolutely not. 100% I stand over what I did. I did those interviews to the best of my ability and within the guidelines. I would not change them I did it to the best of my ability on that day at that time."

Defence counsel for one of the children’s uncles asked the garda if she did not see as something that needed to looked into, the fact that one of the boys made no allegations against his client in one interview and "suddenly" in a second interview mentioned him as one of the people who had abused him.

Andrew Sexton SC asked if she was seriously suggesting that she saw no contradiction there. The garda replied: "Absolutely not. They had been making so many disclosures about so many adults and so many children being present I did not see anything unusual about that."

She agreed that the detail of an allegation made by the child against his client was unusual but said in her experience she had heard a lot of unusual things and it was not her place to judge anything a child told her.

Counsel for another of the children’s uncles asked the garda about certain "ground rules" that are established with children in the video recorded interviews.

She accepted that she had omitted to tell one of the children about one of three ground rules which was to inform the child they could correct the interviewer if they had misunderstood or picked them up wrong.

The garda said that was a total omission on her part and was unintentional. Conor Devally SC said he was not criticising or suggesting any intentional wrongdoing or deviation from the norm by the garda.

The garda also accepted that in the girl’s first meetings with gardaí, and in her in her first recorded interview, she had not mentioned his client.

She also accepted that it was not in the guidelines to tell children they could write down anything they wanted if they remembered something after a visit from gardaí.

The garda agreed it was a practice she had developed over her 12 years working as a specialist interviewer and said it was often helpful for children to write things down. She said the guidelines were not mandatory.

The garda also confirmed that the eldest boy had run away at one point in 2017 and had "hid out" for a day playing Minecraft on his tablet. She confirmed that when gardaí and a social worker spoke to him there were no allegations of him having contact with any family member during that time or being harmed or given tablets by anyone.

Last week, the boy’s younger brother said he had been told that when his older brother ran away, he had been met in a field by one of the accused, an uncle, and "given tablets to make him sleep".

Mr Devally said nothing of the sort had been described by the older boy at the time he ran away and he had been nowhere near his family.

Mr Devally pointed out that it was only in the second interviews that two of the children made allegations against his client.

The garda accepted that in those second interviews the children had the notes they had made. He said allegations against his client were made for the first time when they were written down.

Two of the children were not standing over what they had written down about two other accused, a grandmother and an aunt.

Mr Devally pointed out that none of the safeguards to ensure transparency in the video recorded interviews were in place when children were making notes.

The garda said she was not present when the children wrote their notes and she could not answer for what they had written and could only listen to what they said in their interviews.

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