D.P.P. -v- Garrett Cooney, [2004] IECCA 19 (2004)

Docket Number:125/03
Party Name:D.P.P., Garrett Cooney
Judge:McGuinness J.
 
FREE EXCERPT

COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEAL

125/03

McGuinnness J.

Lavan J.

Ó Caoimh J.

THE PEOPLE (AT THE SUIT OF THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS)

.v.

GARRETT COONEY

APPLICANT

Judgment of the Court delivered the 27th day of July 2004 by McGuinness J.

This application for leave to appeal against severity of sentence arises from the manslaughter of one Christopher Farrell by the applicant, Garrett Cooney, on the 1st January 2002 at Cloonmore Park, in Tallaght. The applicant was charged with murder. He pleaded not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and this plea was accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions. On the 27th June 2003 at the Central Criminal Court he was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment. The Director of Public Prosecutions entered a nolle prosequi on two lesser charges of possession of an offensive weapon and of affray.

The killing took place in the early hours of the 1st January 2003 in the front garden of the applicant's house at 13 Cloonmore Park, Tallaght, where the applicant lived with his partner of eight and a half years, Alison O'Neill, and their two children. A New Year's Eve party was taking place at the next door house, 15 Cloonmore Park. It appears that at midnight the applicant, his partner Ms O'Neill and various neighbours came out to hear the bells ringing in the New Year and they were invited to join the party at 15 Cloonmore Park. A very considerable amount of drinking had been going on on all sides and the applicant appears to have been very drunk and getting drunker as time went on.

While the applicant and Ms O'Neill were attending the party their two young children were in bed at home. Ms O'Neill's brother, Mr Dermot O'Neill, remained in the house as a babysitter.

The course of events is more than a little confused. It appears that Ms O'Neill was enjoying dancing at the party and in particular was dancing with a man named Gavin Murphy. The applicant was not very happy with this situation, particularly as it appears that earlier in the evening he had proposed marriage to his partner, and on a few occasions he urged Ms O'Neill to leave the party and come home with him. He himself went home briefly on a number of occasions to check on the children. During one of these visits it seems that he got into an argument with his partner's brother, Dermot O'Neill, about Ms O'Neill's failure to come home and her dancing with Mr Murphy. Arising from this argument the applicant attacked Mr O'Neill with a knife and wounded his arm, causing considerable bleeding. This incident occurred in the sitting room of No. 123 Cloonmore drive, the applicant's home. The full facts about this attack are not clear. The applicant's memory of it is clouded by drink and Mr O'Neill himself, with remarkable forbearance, has made no complaint to the authorities about the incident.

Shortly after this incident the applicant returned to the party and again asked his partner to come home. A number of people came out into the front garden of No. 15 including the applicant, Mr Gavin Murphy, and the victim Mr Christopher (Kit) Farrell who, it appears, was previously quite unknown to the applicant. There was some altercation. The applicant crossed back into his own front garden followed by Mr Farrell. According to the applicant (in reply to questioning by the Gardai) Mr Farrell was "giving him cheek" and calling him a "a muppet". On the evidence available to the Gardai the applicant and Mr Farrell "went head to head" on the garden path. The applicant stabbed Mr Farrell in the stomach. It was a single stab wound. Mr Farrell staggered out into the roadway and collapsed. The stab wound rapidly proved to be fatal.

Following the attack the applicant appears to have brought a duvet from the house and tried to assist the victim by covering him with it. The Gardai were summoned. Immediately on their arrival the applicant admitted that it was he who had attacked Mr Farrell and, despite a great deal of confusion about the actual sequence of events, he has always accepted his guilt.

The investigating Gardai interviewed the applicant under caution several times. The interviews were recorded on video tape. The memoranda of the interviews were accepted as correct by the applicant and signed by him. These memoranda were before the sentencing court and are also before this court. They present a picture of drink-induced utter confusion in the applicant's mind as to the events of the night in question. The applicant appears to have confused his attack on Mr O'Neill with his stabbing of Mr Farrell. He insisted to the Gardai that he had stabbed Mr Farrell in the sitting room rather than in the garden and pointed out that there was blood in the sitting room which Ms. O'Neill had cleaned up. He recalled Mr Farrell lying outside on the road and that he had fetched a duvet to cover him. He seemed to have little or no memory of the actual stabbing but always accepted that he must have been the perpetrator. The knife used to stab Mr Farrell has never been recovered but the applicant accepted in interview that he had fetched a steak knife from the kitchen from among unwashed dishes in the sink.

The task of the Gardai in establishing the actual course of events was rendered more difficult by the fact that not only the applicant himself but virtually all those present had been drinking heavily for some hours. However, both eye witness accounts and forensic evidence made it clear that the stabbing of Mr Farrell took place as described above in the front garden of the applicant's home. In his interviews with the Gardai the applicant expressed extreme regret at his action and this was confirmed by the Garda witness at the sentencing hearing.

The sentencing hearing

The applicant's sentencing hearing took place in the Central Criminal Court before Carney J. on the 27th June 2003. The evidence as to the facts was given by Detective Inspector Seamus Cane, who was examined in chief by Mr Birmingham on behalf of the Director and cross-examined by Mr Mill-Arden for the defence. Mr Mill-Arden also expressed on behalf of the applicant his extreme regret and remorse and his apology to the family of the deceased man.

A psychiatric report on the applicant by Dr. Brian McCaffrey, consultant psychiatrist, was handed into the court as was a medical report on the applicant's alcoholism. Reports on his school and work records were also handed in.

Detective Inspector Cane gave evidence of the applicant's record. He had committed a number of minor offences, some dating back to the Children's Court in 1987. In the Children's Court in 1987 he received a conviction in respect of a larceny offence and was dealt with under the Probation Act. In the same court in 1988 in respect of a larceny offence he again received the Probation Act. In December 1992 for attempted burglary he was bound to keep the peace for eighteen months in Kilmainham District Court. In December 2001 he received a sentence of two hundred and forty hours...

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