Doyle v Wicklow County Council

CourtSupreme Court
Judgment Date14 December 1974
Docket Number[S.C. No. 4 of 1972]
Date14 December 1974

Supreme Court

[S.C. No. 4 of 1972]
Doyle v. Wicklow County Council

Criminal injury - Arson - Insanity of wrongdoer - Whether test of insanity in criminal trial applicable - McNaghten rules - Applicant for compensation insured against damage by fire - Whether applicant entitled to compensation under criminal injury code - Grand Jury (Ir.) Act, 1836 (6 & 7 Wm IV, c.116), s. 135 - Malicious Damage Act, 1861 (24 & 25 Vict. c. 97),s. 51 - Local Government (Ir.) Act, 1898 (60 & 61 Vict. c. 37),s. 5.

Case Stated.

The applicant was the proprietor of an abattoir at No. 32 Seapoint Road, Bray, in the County of Wicklow. He applied to the Circuit Court sitting at Wicklow for compensation for the damage which he sustained when his abattoir was set on fire by Raymond O'Toole on the night of the 28th January, 1970. The application was made pursuant to s. 135 of the Grand Jury (Ireland) Act, 1836, and s. 5 of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898. At the conclusion of the hearing of the application, the Circuit Court judge (His Honour Judge K. E. L. Deale) stated a case pursuant to s. 16 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1947, for the determination by the Supreme Court of certain questions of law which had arisen in the matter pending before him.

The Case Stated was in the following terms:—

"1. The above-entitled application for compensation for loss sustained by reason of a criminal injury came before me, and I heard it, on the 3rd day of May, 1971. I attach hereto copies of the preliminary notice of application for compensation dated 30th January, 1970, and notice of application to the Circuit Court for compensation dated the 24th February, 1971, which form part of this Case Stated.

2. The following facts were proved or admitted at the hearing:—

  1. (a) That damage by fire, as set out in the notice of application, was caused on the night of 28th January, 1970, to the property of the applicant known as the Bray Abattoir and its contents, to the extent of £8,000 or thereabouts.

  2. (b) That the said damage was caused by one O, a youth of 17 years of age, by his setting fire to the Bray abattoir, the property of the applicant, deliberately and with the intention of damaging or destroying the said property and contents. The said premises are used by the applicant for slaughtering animals, and kindred purposes, in his business as a wholesale butcher.

  3. (c) That the said youth, in the opinion of Dr. Noel Browne who gave evidence, was, in December 1970 when he examined O., suffering from a mental disorder which led him to believe that for setting the said fire he should not be charged or punished, although he knew his act was one forbidden by society or contrary to law. His reason for this belief was his love of animals, to the killing of which he was very much opposed, and his conviction that humans did not need animals for food and that nobody should kill animals, and he had burned the said premises as a protest thereabout. Dr. Browne was of opinion that O believed his act was right and that the doing of that act showed that O's judgment was distorted and he was emotionally disturbed, and to that extent he could not be called sane, and he needed psychiatric treatment and detention. O's defective reasoning in respect of his protest was such, in Dr. Browne's opinion, that he should not be held responsible for what he had done. In the public interest, because of O's disturbed values, Dr. Browne considered he should not be allowed out of custody. In reply to a question from me, Dr. Browne said that if, when O. was about to climb the wall of the said premises for the purpose of committing his said crime two Gardaí had been present, he would have waited till there were no Gardaí there, so determined was he to carry out his crime.

3. In cross-examination the applicant was asked by Mr. Mackey, counsel for the respondents, whether he had been insured for the whole or part of the loss by fire which was, or part of which was, the subject matter of the application. This question was objected to by Mr. Doyle S.C. for the applicant as being irrelevant. After hearing argument I disallowed the question as being irrelevant. If I had allowed the said question, evidence would have been offered (if admissible) showing:—

  1. (a) that the applicant had been paid in part for his said loss by his insurers, and

  2. (b) that the application, although in the name of the applicant, was being maintained by his said insurers in pursuance of a subrogation clause in the applicant's policy of fire insurance, for the purpose of obtaining for them an indemnity for moneys paid by them under the said policy to the applicant. Such evidence would have given rise to the undermentioned questions Nos. 5 (c) (i) and (ii).

4. At the conclusion of the said hearing I did not determine the said application, and counsel for the respondents asked me to state a case for the determination by the Supreme Court of the questions of law set out in paragraph No. 5 hereof. I agreed so to do and have accordingly done so hereby.

5. The said questions of law are:—

  1. (a) Where, on the trial of an application for compensation for criminal injury, there is evidence of the insanity of the person who caused the damage at the time he did so, should the judge determine the issue of insanity as an issue of fact solely on the evidence offered, or should he in addition apply the principles laid down inMcNaghten's Case1?

  2. (b) Was the question referred to in paragraph 3 hereof correctly disallowed by me as irrelevant?

  3. (c) If the answer to 5(b) is "No"—

    1. (i) Can an applicant recover for malicious damage in respect of which he has been paid by an insurer, and

    2. (ii) Do the Malicious Injuries Acts, 1836, 1857 etc. entitle an insurer, where the policy so provides, to maintain an application for compensation in the name of the policy-holder for the purpose of recovering moneys paid to the policy-holder pursuant to the said contract of insurance?

Dated this 15th day of December, 1971.

Kenneth E. Deale.

Judge of the Eastern Circuit of the Circuit Court."

Section 135 of the Grand Jury (Ireland) Act, 1836, states that:—"In all cases of maliciously or wantonly setting fire to, burning, or destroying any house, outhouse, or other building . . . belonging to any person . . . the said grand jury shall on the consideration of the said matter either disallow such application altogether, or present such sum or sums of money as the person or persons so injured ought to receive for such injury or damage, to be levied off the county at large, or such barony, parish, district, townland, or sub-denomination thereof, as the grand jury shall direct."

Section 51 of the Malicious Damage Act, 1861, enacts that:— "Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously commit any damage, injury, or spoil to or upon any real or personal property whatsoever, either of a public or private nature, for which no punishment is herein-before provided, the damage, injury, or spoil being to an amount exceeding fifty pounds, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour . . ."

Section 5, sub-s. 1, of the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898, provides that:— "There shall be transferred to the county court the business of any presentment sessions and grand jury in relation to compensation for criminal injuries, that is to say, compensation under the enactments mentioned in Part One of the First Schedule to this Act, and of those enactments section one hundred and thirty-five and the following sections of the Grand Juries Act, 1836, so far as unrepealed, shall extend to the case of maliciously setting fire to, destroying, or injuring property of any description, whether real, or personal, in like manner as they apply to the setting fire to, injuring, or destroying the particular descriptions of property specified in the first-mentioned section: Provided that this Act shall not extend the application of the said sections to any case except where the malicious act done was a crime punishable on indictment under the Malicious Damage Act, 1861."

Sub-section 2 of s. 5 of the Act of 1898 provides that:—"Upon an application for such compensation, the county court may either refuse the application, or make a decree against the county council, and, if the decree is made, shall have the power of a judge of assize under section one hundred and forty of the Grand Juries Act, 1836, with respect to the apportionment of the compensation." This jurisdiction is now exercised by the Circuit Court: see s. 22, sub-s. 3, of the Courts (Supplemental Provisions) Act, 1961.

The order made by the Supreme Court on the 14th December, 1973, pursuant to the judgments, post, was in the following form:—

". . . This Court doth answer the questions submitted by the learned Circuit Court judge as follows:—

  1. (a) (i) the judge in determining such issue of insanity should apply the standards or rules appropriate to a criminal trial;

    1. (ii) the rules in McNaghten's Case2 do not provide the sole or exclusive test for determining such issue and the opinions of the judges in that case must be read as being specifically limited to the effect of insane delusions;

    2. (iii) in a case where, on such issue, it appears that although the person who committed the damage knew the nature and quality of his act and understood its wrongfulness, morally and legally, the judge may consider whether such person was debarred from refraining from committing the damage because of a defect of reason due to his mental illness.

And the Court doth declare in answer to Question (b)of the said questions that the question therein referred to was correctly disallowed and the Court having regard to the said answer to Question (b) doth not deem it necessary to answer Question (c) of the said questions and the Court doth order and adjudge the same accordingly and doth order that the matter of the...

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