DPP -v- Una Black, [2009] IECCA 91 (2009)

Docket Number:222/08
Party Name:DPP, Una Black
Judge:Murray C.J.
 
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THE COURT OF CRIMINAL APPEALMurray C.J. 222/2008McCarthy J.O'Keeffe J.BETWEENTHE PEOPLE AT THE SUIT OF THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS-v-UNA BLACKAPPLICANTJUDGMENT of the Court delivered by Murray C.J. on the 31st day of July 2009On the 26th day of May 2008 at the Central Criminal Court the applicant pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr. John Malone at Walter Macken Flats, Galway.The trial Court sentenced the applicant to a term of imprisonment of nine years. She has applied for leave to appeal against the imposition of that sentence on the grounds that, in the circumstances of the case, it was unduly severe and disproportionate.Background FactsAt the time of the offence the deceased victim was 42 yeas of age, single and living alone in a ground floor flat at No. 36 Walter Macken Place, Galway. He socialised fairly frequently with the applicant and her partner, who lived at No. 23 in the same flat complex. The applicant's flat was more or less opposite and overlooking that of the deceased. It was on the other side of a very small green between the two buildings on the second floor.At the time of the offence the applicant was aged 24 years. The deceased was in the habit of keeping dogs and at the time was also looking after a puppy dog belonging to the applicant. An altercation which took place between the applicant and the deceased, and which led to him being inflicted with a fatal stab wound, arose from a row between them which centred on the applicant's dog.At 5.45 a.m. on the morning of 3rd December 2006 an emergency phone call was received at the control centre in Galway Garda Station and a second call one minute later. The first call was from a woman who gave her name as Una but was later identified as the applicant who told the control centre that a man had been in a fight with two young fellows, had been knocked to the ground, and that she, the caller, was afraid to go over to where it happened. An ambulance was requested and the deceased's address given. The second phone call came from a neighbour of the applicant who had been alerted by the disturbance.When the Gardaí arrived at the scene they found the deceased lying in a pool of blood face down. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead at 6.43 a.m. The post-mortem revealed that he had died from a single stab wound to the upper left chest. There was evidence that there were no defensive wounds to his body and that he had a blood/alcohol reading of 203 milligrams.In the meantime Garda investigations led them to visit the flat resided in by the applicant where both she and her partner denied any knowledge of what had gone on that morning. Both she and her partner were detained pursuant to the provisions of s. 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984. Her partner was to be later released without charge.The deceased and the applicant had been friendly neighbours for a number of years in spite of rows which they may have had from time to time. There was evidence that on occasion the deceased would get "narky" and that he and the applicant would have rows when there was drink taken. Some time before the date of the offence the applicant had called the Gardaí on account of an assault on her by the deceased, but she had not pursued the complaint when the Gardaí arrived. The deceased was on a disability allowance and did not work. The applicant and her partner and the deceased would drink together frequently either in their flats or elsewhere. The applicant had acquired a pup and she had asked the deceased to look after the pup in his flat apparently because the applicant's partner and the latter's daughter, who lived with them, did not like the pup being kept in the flat.Circumstances Surrounding the Commission of the CrimeIn the late afternoon of December 2nd the applicant had left her flat to purchase some beer and a bottle of whiskey. On her return she spent the evening drinking with her partner and another person in her flat. The deceased, Mr. Malone, arrived in her flat late that evening and remained there drinking with them into the early hours of the morning. He left the flat not long before approximately 4.30 a.m. Before the deceased left, an argument had broken out between him and the applicant arising out of the circumstances in which he was minding her puppy dog. There was apparently a lot of shouting and verbal abuse but nothing physical in the argument. A short while after the deceased had left the applicant decided to retrieve her own dog from his flat. Before she did so she went into the kitchen and got a knife to bring with her. She told the Gardaí in one of her statements that she brought the knife just to scare him. She also acknowledged that she was upset and in a temper. When she went over to the deceased's flat the door was open. She grabbed her own dog and left. The deceased saw her and ran out, grabbed her by the arm and took the dog off her. She added that he had pulled her down. There was a further argument at this stage and they were shouting at one another. The deceased went back to the flat with the dog and the applicant decided to go back and try to take the dog again. The deceased then came out again and according to the applicant's account he pushed her and "we two started fighting". She told the Gardaí in one of her interviews that "the two of us started wrestling and fighting and ended up on the grass and the two of us started hitting one another and that is probably how it ended up happening".This was a reference to her stabbing him with the knife which she had brought with her and had been carrying in her right hand.According to her account her mind went blank at this point and she does not remember the act of stabbing the deceased She said she could not remember exactly how it happened and while she could not remember the knife "going in" to...

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