Director of Public Prosecutions -v- O'Connor, [2014] IECCA 39 (2014)

Docket Number:1/12
Party Name:Director of Public Prosecutions, O'Connor
Judge:O''Donnell Donal J.
 
FREE EXCERPT

THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEAL

CCA No. 1/12

O’Donnell J.

Herbert J.

Edwards J.

Between/

The People at the Suit of the

Director of Public Prosecutions Respondent

And

Thomas O’ConnorAppellant

Judgment of the Court delivered on the 24th of November 2014, by O’Donnell J.

1 On the 5th of June 2010 the appellant Thomas O’Connor, a young man aged 22, killed his friend and neighbour John O’Brien, then also a young man aged 22 and about to get married. John O’Brien died as a result of a blunt force trauma to his head caused by being struck by a rock which was recovered as part of the garda investigation and found to weigh 1.6 kilograms.

2 The evidence was that during the evening of the 4th of June both the appellant and the victim had been drinking in the underground car park of Superquinn in Greystones and driving around the area with the victim’s brother Jimmy. There was evidence that in the course of the evening the victim had struck two younger men and was restrained by Thomas O’Connor. There was a dispute as to just how serious this altercation was, but it was something upon which, understandably, the defence placed some stress.

3 Finally, in the early hours of the morning having disagreed about what to do next, they separated at a roundabout on the road between Greystones and Charlesland and started in different directions. As it happened, there was a considerable amount of evidence from both passing motorists and residents who witnessed part at least of what transpired. Among those accounts was some evidence that the appellant was shouting something and cursing, and then made a u-turn and doubled back. A number of witnesses gave evidence that they saw a man wearing a grey hoodie, as the appellant was, standing over another man who was then lying on the ground, and striking him repeatedly. There was also evidence that the victim was very badly injured indeed, was bleeding profusely, and in particular, that his head was seriously deformed. Dr Curtis, the Deputy State Pathologist, gave evidence that the victim suffered a catastrophic head injury.

4 After this incident, the appellant went to the home of his former girlfriend. He told her a story which is now accepted to be completely untrue of having been assaulted by a man carrying a knife. He obtained bleach from her to wash the blood from his hands, and scrubbed his clothes to remove the blood stains. He then got two firelighters from her and left. It is clear that his former girlfriend was very agitated about the scene in her house. The appellant then went to the house where he lived with his current partner and tried to burn his clothes in a bin. He also returned to the scene of the incident, and spoke to gardaí there. He did not at that stage admit any involvement in the incident. Later on that day when confronted by members of the victim’s family he said that John O’Brien had been fine the last time he had seen him the previous night.

5 Later on the 5th of June the appellant contacted his partner, told her what he had done and then set off to see his daughter. He was however arrested by the gardaí. There were a number of interviews during which he did not require the attendance of a lawyer. The account he gave was contained in the following lengthy statement which was introduced in evidence on Day 3:

“I first met him over Superquinn in Greystones about 8.30 pm or earlier. I had to go to the shop and get bread and I bought drink and I bumped into John O’Brien and he asked me did I want to go drinking. We sat down in the underground car park at Superquinn and started drinking. We were there for a while and then I said I had to head home to drop the [bread] home. I came back over to the car park after speaking to Jimmy O’Brien. We then came over in the car and sat in the car for a while drinking. Then I just went spinning the car with John and Jimmy, just all over the place then. Me and John went back over to Superquinn car park where we met two other fellows and started hanging around with them - drinking. We were over there for a while. We then went out to the car park and John started getting into an argument with the two boys we had met up with and he started hitting them. We were there for about half an hour longer. Then we walked out of the car park near the Chinese at Superquinn and John started to have an argument with a fellow in a car and the lads, the lads we were with went home then. He went up to his nanny’s house, I think they call her nanny; we were there for about five seconds. She put us out. We were too drunk. So then we just went walking around Charlesland. We were giving some man abuse...

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