A couple who were found guilty of the female genital mutilation of their one-year-old daughter in 2016, in the first trial of its kind in this country, have had their convictions quashed on appeal.
The man and women, who are originally from a French-speaking region of Africa, face a retrial after the Court of Appeal ruled their trial had been "unfair" because of problems with the translation of their testimony to the jury.
They had both pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in November 2019 to one count of carrying out an act of FGM on their daughter at an address in Dublin on 16 September 2016.
The 39-year-old man and 29-year-old woman also pleaded not guilty to one count of child cruelty on the same day.
The jury, however, returned unanimous verdicts of guilty on all counts after three hours of deliberations following an eight-day trial.
In January 2020, Judge Elma Sheahan sentenced the man to five-and-a-half-years' imprisonment and the woman to four years and nine months.
The couple later appealed both convictions on the grounds their right to a fair trial had been breached when their answers to questions from counsel during proceedings were mistranslated.
During the trial, the defendants had claimed their daughter suffered her injury - which had required hospital treatment - when she fell backwards on to a toy in her house.
At the Court of Appeal today, Mr Justice John Edwards, sitting with Court President Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said there had been "serious and far-reaching inaccuracies in the translation process".
Noting that submissions from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had argued that a fair trial need not necessarily be a perfect trial, and that the appellants had in actual fact received a fair trial, Mr Justice Edwards said: "We beg to disagree."
The jury, the appellant judge said, might well have acquitted if they have found the defendants' explanation as to how their daughter’s injury occurred credible on the basis of evidence provided during cross-examination.
"It was simply unfair the jury did not receive an accurate interpretation of the appellants’ answers," Mr Justice Edwards said, adding that that court had "no hesitation" in ruling that the trial had been "unsafe".
After the judgment was delivered, Shane Costelloe SC, for the DPP, said the State would be requesting a retrial.
The request was not opposed by counsel for both appellants.
FGM has been outlawed in Ireland since legislation was introduced to criminalise the practice in 2012. It carries a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
The State did not argue that the couple had carried out FGM themselves, but had "aided and abetted, counselled or procured" it.
The trial heard that they had attended a hospital with their daughter and asked for help because she was bleeding from the genital area.
They had claimed the child had sustained her injuries by falling backwards onto a toy while not wearing a nappy.
The parents' version of events was disputed by several medical experts.