Director of Public Prosecutions -v- Lynch, [2015] IECCA 6 (2015)

Docket Number:85/07
Party Name:Director of Public Prosecutions, Lynch



O’Donnell J.

Moriarty J.

White J.


The People at the Suit of the

Director of Public ProsecutionsRespondent


Kieran LynchAppellant

Judgment of the Court delivered on the 29th of July 2015, by O’Donnell J.


  1. Kieran Lynch was, in 2005 and at the time of the events described herein nearly 40 years of age. He was living with his partner of nearly 10 years, Catherine McEnery in a cottage in Craughwell, County Galway. They had a son who suffered from spina bifida and was in care. A criminal trial focuses with meticulous detail on the events the subject matter of the trial, but is not designed to give a sympathetic or rounded picture of the participants. This can add to the distress of families of victims and other participants in a trial, particularly when aspects of the trial are highlighted and sometimes sensationalised. In order to understand this case, it is necessary to say that both Kieran Lynch and Catherine McEnery struggled seriously with alcohol, and abused it regularly in conjunction with prescription drugs, principally popular tranquillisers known generally as benzodiazepines, which when used in conjunction with alcohol can increase the intoxicant effect. Catherine McEnery had previously had a successful business and was spoken of warmly by her family, and indeed by Kieran Lynch. However, for the purposes of this case, the complexities of her personality, and the difficulties of her life, are reduced to the simple and unavoidable fact that she was a victim. On the night of the 16th/17th of July 2005 Kieran Lynch beat her and killed her. It is not in doubt that he was guilty of a crime in doing so: the only question which was addressed at his trial was whether he was guilty of manslaughter or murder.

  2. On the 12th of July 2005, Kieran Lynch and Catherine McEnery had been in Galway. Considerable quantities of alcohol and tranquillisers were consumed. Kieran Lynch fell into the Corrib River and nearly drowned. When he was rescued, he was admitted to hospital where it was established that he had a history of abuse of alcohol and tranquilisers. On admission he was found to have benzodiazepines in his system, and to have an alcohol level of 274mg% which is a very high level, considered to be consistent in many people with a stuporous state. He was unconscious, and scored 3/15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, which is a scale which assesses basic functions such as a patient’s ability to open eyes, speak and move, and obey commands. Three on a scale of fifteen was described as a “very low coma scale … suggestive of essentially marked depression in neurological function”. His temperature was low, and he was suffering from mild hypothermia.

  3. From the point of admission to hospital and recovery of consciousness he was aggressive and difficult. He was transferred from the high dependency unit to the general medical ward with accompanying security. Staff in the medical ward were concerned for their own safety and that of other patients. He was recorded as being “aggressive ++”. He was given two 200mg doses of chlorodiazepoxide, one on the evening of the 14th and again on the morning of the 15th. These were very large doses. Chlorodiazepoxide was an early benzodiazepine and is used, as in this case, in dealing with persons dependent upon other benzodiazepines, in this case, diazepam.

  4. On the morning of the 15th of July 2005, Kieran Lynch discharged himself from hospital against medical advice. Hospital records noted he was “not of sound mind to discharge and would be at risk of further injury”. On his return to Craughwell he did some chores and he and Catherine McEnery began drinking vodka, cider and cheap larger, and also took diazepam. They also each visited the village to obtain more alcohol. A neighbour, Fern Farraige, gave evidence that on the 15th of July she overheard the applicant on a mobile phone saying “I’ve put up with this for 10 years. I’ve had enough of her. I’m going to sort this out”. She considered that this was said in relation to Catherine McEnery. She was not cross-examined however and little emphasis appears to have been placed on this evidence at the trial.

  5. Saturday the 16th of July was spent in similar fashion. On the morning of Sunday the 17th of July gardaí received an emergency phone call from Kieran Lynch. As a result gardaí went to the cottage and found Catherine McEnery dead in her bed. There was a large quantity of blood on her clothing, on the bed, and throughout the house. Initially Kieran Lynch told them that she had been drinking for the past five weeks, had a tendency to go into Galway and drink with the street drinkers and generally fall in with a bad crowd. On this occasion she had been dropped back at the house and was bruised and bleeding. He had put her to bed and checked whether she wanted an ambulance. She refused and when he woke in the morning she was dead. He said that if they found the person who had beaten her he would kill him himself. He maintained this story initially, and made a formal statement to this effect, but later that day made further statements. In these he admitted that he had beaten Catherine McEnery and caused her death. He maintained that she had been very drunk and had become aggressive and abusive around midnight on the 16th of July. He continued:

    “Katie was still abusing me. I was saying to her Katie can’t you go to bed? She picked up a plank of timber from beside the fire it was about two feet long a piece of split log. It was old. She started calling me a bastard and a cunt. And she hit me on the legs and the elbows. She pulled me by the hair she was trying to drag me off the couch. I told her three times or maybe four or five times to leave me alone or I will hurt you. I asked her to go to bed. She hit me again. I got up and I grabbed the leg of a chair. This was the leg of a chair that Katie had fallen over earlier in the day and the leg was broke. The chair leg was in the corner. Katie was still coming at me with the plank. I warned her to leave me alone and to go to bed. She was coming at me. I lost my temper. How could I stand there and be walloped around the place? I swung the leg of the chair at her, hitting her on the lower jaw. She still came after me. She still had the plank of timber. I swung with the leg of the chair, I hit her in the same spot again. I hit her three or four times. I then pulled her stick off her. She went in and sat on the bed she was not bleeding. I told her this had to stop she was crying. I told her I was sorry but that she started it. I told her that she was getting another chance that this place was beautiful. She went into bed and I went out and lay on the couch. Before I lay on the couch I asked her if she wanted an ambulance? She said no she didn’t want the Health Board to hear about it. During the night I checked on her seven or eight times. At one stage I woke her up and we had a fag. I put a pillow to her back, she was bleeding and crying, saying she was sorry. Every time I went in to her I asked her did she want an ambulance? She said no way. She went back to sleep. Another time I went into her I washed her face, this would have been very early in the morning. I would say it was getting bright. Shortly before I rang the guards this morning I went in and found her dead. Before I found her dead I saw blood everywhere around the bedroom, sitting room and kitchen. An awful lot of blood. She must have got up during the night. I cleaned up some of this blood then I stopped and phoned the guards. The leg of the chair I hit her with was in the bedroom and I moved it to the sitting room or kitchen. The piece of timber she hit me with is either beside the fire or in the fire. I am ashamed of what has happened. I am very sorry and I loved the girl to bits.” (transcript of the trial; day 3; pp. 8-9)

  6. In another interview the following day, the 18th of July, Kieran Lynch said that Catherine McEnery fell to the ground when he struck her and that he lifted her into the bed in the bedroom and put the quilt over her and she was talking and saying that she was sorry and he said he was sorry. He was asked why he did not simply take the piece of timber off her when she attacked him and said “if I took the piece of timber off her it is a knife that she would have got”. When asked to describe his emotions when being attacked he said:

    “I was sick of what she was doing. It was going on for a half hour I had enough of it. I just lost control, my head went.

    Q: At what stage did you stop hitting Catherine?

    When she fell on the ground.” (transcript of the trial; day 4; p. 14)

  7. It is apparent that even between these latter accounts there are some inconsistencies principally in relation to how Catherine McEnery got to the bed and the extent of bleeding at the time of the assault. There are also implausibilities. Forensic evidence suggested that assaults had occurred both in the living room and the bedroom, and that the degree of force used was considerable having regard to the blood splatter, and that some blows had been struck when the victim was bleeding. There was also evidence of marking on the door jambs into the bedroom consistent with the person being carried horizontally.

  8. The evidence of the Chief State Pathologist, Dr Michael Curtis, was particularly graphic. The deceased woman had a blood alcohol level of 226mg % and therapeutic levels of benzodiazepine in her blood. She had been beaten with a blunt object on the head, body and legs. She had a fracture at the base of the skull and fractures of the cheekbone and jawbone on the left side. She had multiple fractures to the ribs resulting in two puncture wounds to the left lung. She had been struck a multiplicity of blows over a large area of her body including the head, face, trunk, upper limbs and lower limbs. She had sustained multiple bruises, abrasions and lacerations. She also had fractures to the fingers...

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