Attorney General v Boylan

CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal (Irish Free State)
Judgment Date20 Apr 1937

Court of Criminal Appeal.

Attorney-General v. Boylan

Criminal law - Charge of murder - Defence of "irresistible impulse" - Onus of proof - Evidence necessary to establish defence of insanity - Sufficiency of evidence - Presumption of sanity - Judge's charge to the jury.

Appeal from an order of O'Byrne J. refusing a certificate under sect. 31 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924, for an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

The accused, Patrick Boylan, was convicted at the Central Criminal Court, Dublin, of the murder of one, Norah Whelan, at 13 Coburg Place, Dublin, on the 5th of December, 1936. The trial took place on the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th of March, 1937, before O'Byrne J. and a jury. The material facts given in evidence were as follows:—

The accused was an electric welder working at the Pigeon House, Dublin, and resided with his parents at 13 Coburg Place, Dublin. In 1931, while he was working as an

apprentice in the Dublin Dockyard, a steel plate fell upon his head from the bottom of a ship. Dr. McAuley, one of the medical witnesses, gave evidence that he had treated the accused in 1931 at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital for a serious injury to the head and at the trial produced the hospital records that the accused was then suffering from traumatic headache as a result of the head injury. Since that time the accused said he had suffered from intermittent headaches. For about nine months prior to December, 1936, he had been "keeping company" with the said Norah Whelan, who resided in 19 Nicholas Street, Dublin.

During the afternoon and early evening of the 5th of December, 1936, the accused consumed a considerable quantity of liquor. About 7 p.m. he met Norah Whelan by appointment in Nicholas Street and accompanied her, her sister and her brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. O'Neill, to 13 Coburg Place, where a dance was to take place, arriving there about 8.30 p.m. For the ensuing two hours music and dancing were provided for the guests. Some time prior to 11 p.m. the accused quarrelled with two men guests, Osborne and McDermott, who were on the premises against his wishes and who had been paying attention to Norah Whelan.

A little later the accused asked Norah Whelan why she would not dance with her brother-in-law. She replied:"I am finished with you" (the accused).

A few minutes later the McNeills saw the accused talking to Norah Whelan at the back door of 13 Coburg Place. The accused turned to the McNeills and said to them: "Did you hear what she has said? She is finished with me." He then asked the McNeills to go into the house as he wished to speak privately to Norah Whelan. After a further request the McNeills went into the hall of the house. When they were a few steps up the hall they heard a scream coming from the yard and rushed back to the back door. There they saw the accused and Norah Whelan standing close together and apparently engaged in a struggle, then Norah Whelan broke away from the accused and rushed into the house with blood streaming from her throat. McNeill asked the accused what was wrong and he said:"I have cut her throat. Leave me alone, I want to get in to kiss her before she dies." McNeill prevented him from entering the house and then the accused said, pointing at something on the ground: "There is the thing that I done it with." He then jumped on to the yard wall and shouted:"I know what I done, I will swing for it; I will do the canal." He then disappeared over the wall into the yard of 14 Coburg Place and was seen no more until the ambulance arrived to take the girl to hospital when he appeared in front of the house and recommenced to fight with Osborne. Having been separated he again disappeared. The next night he arrived at his uncle's house in Nicholas Street and was there arrested by members of the Civic Guard. On his arrest he said "I know nothing." Later he was brought to FitzGibbon St. Police Station where he made the following statement:—

"1.10 a.m. 7th December, 1936.

The only thing I remember I was in the room, where the party was dancing, and I seen two fellows, one was sitting, the other was standing at each side of the girl. (In reply to a question he said the girl was Norah Whelan.) One was a former lover, the other was in deep conversation with her, with his arm on her shoulder. Her brother-in-law asked her up to dance, and she never moved to get up. She stayed in the one position. So I called her outside, and I asked her why she would not dance with her brother-in-law. So then she ran away from me, and she said she was finished with me. That's all I know. I remember nothing else."

An hour later he was charged with the murder of Norah Whelan and made a second statement to the police in the following terms:—

"The only thing I have to say is I was with Norah Whelan at the Corinthian Picture House up to 5.55 p.m., Saturday evening, 5/12/36. I left her at the Crumlin bus. I left her there and I went down a bit and I met a chap named Tormey. So I went with him to the Scotch House. We had two drinks there, the two of us. Just in a few minutes we came out. We met two more fellows coming from the match, Sligo and Shelbourne, and we went back there again to the Scotch House. I left them, went home and had a cup of tea. I rushed up to see her again at 7 p.m. She was not there at 7, so I went into the publichouse, called at Raths in Nicholas Street, and had a couple of drinks there. I left it at 7.15 p.m. and went over and met her. We then went up to her sister's beside the Richmond Hospital. So her sister and her sister's husband came with us to my house. Me and her brother-in-law came out again and had a drink."

The accused was then brought to the Bridewell and charged in the District Court with the murder of Norah Whelan. At the trial in the Central Criminal Court the accused stated in evidence that from the time when he had asked Norah Whelan why she would not dance with her brother-in-law and she had replied "I am finished with you"until the moment when he "woke up in the prison" his mind was a complete blank and that he was completely unaware of his actions and movements in the intervening period; he said that he had no recollection of his quarrel with Osborne and McDermott nor of making the two statements to the police.

A large number of witnesses, including medical experts, were examined both on behalf of the Attorney-General and on behalf of the accused.

The further facts appear sufficiently from the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal delivered by Sullivan C.J. post.

The jury found the accused guilty of murder and he was sentenced to death.

Counsel for the accused applied for leave to appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal on the following grounds (which were the same as those relied upon in the Court of Criminal Appeal):—

(1) That the verdict was against the evidence and weight of evidence.

(2) That the learned trial Judge misdirected the jury by omitting to tell them that inability to...

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5 cases
  • Attorney General (The People) v Fennell (No. 1)
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 24 July 1940
    ...McNaghten's Case, 10 Cl. & F. 200; Woolmingtonv. Director of Public Prosecutions, [1935] A. C. 462, and Attorney-Generalv. Boylan, [1937] I. R. 449, as being that the accused must establish clearly his insanity to the satisfaction of the jury. Dictum in Sodeman v. The KingUNK, [1936] W.......
  • The People (Director of Public Prosecutions) v Heffernan
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 7 February 2017
    ...of ' irresistible impulse' before the jury, because there was no evidence to ground it. 27 Similarly, in The Attorney General v. Boylan [1937] I.R. 449 the Court of Criminal Appeal rejected the submission that the jury should have been instructed that if an accused gave evidence tending to......
  • Doyle v Wicklow County Council
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 14 December 1974
    ...1 (1843) 10 Cl. & F. 200. 2 (1843) 10 Cl & F. 200. 3 (1843) 10 Cl. & F. 200. 4 [1933] L.J. Ir. 130. 5 [1936] I.R. 263. 6 [1937] I.R. 449. 7 (1951) 85 I.L.T.R. 184. 8 (1954) 214 F. 2d. 862. 9 (1966) 357 F. 2d. 606. 10 [1942] Ir. Jur. Rep. 79. 11 [1950] Ir. Jur. Rep. 7. 12 [1928] ......
  • State (Roche) v Delap
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 11 July 1980
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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