Attorney General v Boylan

CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal (Irish Free State)
Judgment Date20 April 1937
Date20 April 1937
Attorney-General v. Boylan

Court of Criminal Appeal.

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.

The accused was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. At the time of his trial he admitted that he was perfectly sane, but his defence was that when he committed the crime he was insane, and therefore not responsible in law for his act. It was contended on his behalf that the trial Judge misdirected the jury as to the onus of proof which rests upon an accused who seeks to establish such a defence, that the Judge should have told the jury that if the result of the evidence was to leave them in doubt as to the sanity of the accused they should give the accused the benefit of the doubt and find him to be insane.

The Court of Criminal Appeal held, having regard to McNaughton's Case,10 Cl. & F. 200, R. v. Stokes, 3 C. & K. 185, and Woolmington v. Director of Public Prosecutions, [1935] A. C. 462, that that contention was unsustainable, and that the direction given to the jury by the trial Judge was in accordance with those authorities and was clearly right.

Further objection was taken to the Judge's charge to the jury with respect to the evidence necessary to establish the defence of insanity, and as to the test that the jury should apply in relation to that defence. The Judge had directed the jury in accordance with the rule in McNaughton's Case (supra)—that in order to establish the defence of insanity it must be proved that at the time the act was committed the accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong. It was contended that that direction was inadequate, and that the Judge should have told the jury that if they were satisfied that by reason of mental disease the accused was prevented from controlling his actions, that would establish insanity even if the accused knew the nature and quality of his act and knew that he was doing wrong.

The Court of Criminal Appeal held that there was no evidence on which the jury could find that, if the accused knew what he was doing and knew that he was doing wrong, he was nevertheless incapable of controlling his acts, and therefore this ground of objection to the Judge's charge could not be sustained—the Court refraining from expressing any opinion on the question whether, if irresistible impulse had been established, it would have afforded any defence to the charge.

Accordingly the accused's appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal against his conviction and sentence was refused.

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...

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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 King, [1936] W. N. 190......
  • 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......
  • State (Roche) v Delap
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 11 July 1980
    ......Nevertheless, I think it was not a proper exercise of his appellate jurisdiction. In Attorney General (Lambe) v. Fitzgerald I973 I.R. 1965, I quoted with approval the following dictum of Davitt ......
  • Doyle v Wicklow County Council
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 14 December 1974
    ...the appeal.] 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]......
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