DPP v Cahoon

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeMr. Justice Mahon
Judgment Date28 Nov 2017
Neutral Citation[2017] IECA 307
Docket NumberRecord No. 10/2016

[2017] IECA 307

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Mahon J.

Birmingham J.

Mahon J.

Edwards J.

Record No. 10/2016

BETWEEN/
THE PEOPLE AT THE SUIT OF THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
RESPONDENT
- AND -
STEPHEN CAHOON
APPELLANT

Conviction – Murder – Admission of evidence – Appellant seeking to appeal against conviction – Whether trial judge erred in law in admitting statements into evidence pursuant to s. 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006

Facts: The appellant, Mr Cahoon, on the 3rd December 2015, was convicted for the murder of Ms Quigley on the 26th July 2008 at her home in Derry, Northern Ireland. The trial commenced on the 27th October 2015 and concluded with a unanimous jury verdict. The trial was conducted in the Republic of Ireland pursuant to s. 2 of the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976. The trial was the third of the appellant for the murder of Ms Quigley. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against his conviction. The appellant's grounds of appeal were that the trial judge erred in law in: (i) admitting the statements of Mr Casey into evidence pursuant to s. 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006; (ii) finding that the statements of Mr Casey were both 'reliable' and 'voluntary' within the meaning of s. 16(2)(b)(ii) and (iii) of the 2006 Act; and (iii) admitting the statements of Mr Casey as it was unfair to the accused and not in the interests of justice.

Held by the Court that, having regard to the fact that the appellant was convicted of murder in an earlier trial (that verdict being subsequently quashed by the Court) in the absence of evidence from Mr Casey, the extent of the contribution of his evidence (including his statements) to the guilty verdict in this trial was uncertain. The Court held that the trial judge considered the s. 16 issue with great care before reaching the decision to admit the statements into evidence. The Court was satisfied that the decision was correct and that the requirements of s. 16 were satisfied in the making of that decision. The Court was also satisfied that the charge to the jury on the issue was both fair and comprehensive and, if anything, was weighted in favour of the appellant.

The Court held that the appeal would be dismissed.

Appeal dismissed.

JUDGMENT of the Court delivered on 28th the day of November 2017 by Mr. Justice Mahon
1

The appellant has appealed his conviction on the 3rd December 2015 for the murder of Jean Quigley on the 26th July 2008 at her home in Derry, Northern Ireland. The trial commenced on the 27th October 2015 and continued for twenty days, before concluding with a unanimous jury verdict. The trial was conducted in the Republic of Ireland pursuant to s. 2 of the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Act 1976.

2

The trial was the third of the appellant for the murder of Ms. Quigley. The jury disagreed in the first and the conviction of the appellant in the second was earlier set aside by this Court for reasons unrelated to the issues arising in this appeal.

3

Ms. Quigley was a 30-year old, separated mother of four young children and was ten weeks pregnant at the time of her death. She had been in a relationship with the appellant between the 17th March 2008 and the 12th July 2008, when it was ended by the deceased. Attempted reconciliation, later in July 2008, was unsuccessful. In the early hours of the morning of the 26th July 2008, the appellant visited the deceased whose children were staying overnight with their father at a different address. The evidence of a taxi driver was that he drove the appellant to a point close to the deceased's address in the early hours of the 26th July 2008, and that he was carrying a holdall bag with him. The appellant denied that he was carrying a bag.

4

Although the appellant maintained that the deceased voluntarily admitted him into her home, there was evidence of damage to the locking mechanism to the door and it appeared to have been forced open.

5

The deceased's naked body was found in an upstairs bedroom on the 27th July 2008 by her mother who had become concerned about being unable to contact her. The cause of death was manual strangulation. Bruises were found on her head, lips, neck, chest, flank, legs, ankles and arms. Some were described as likely defensive wounds. Pieces of parcel tape were found in the bedroom on each side of the bed and in the bathroom. One piece contained blood with DNA from the deceased. Traces of the appellant's DNA were found in the toilet bowl and on cigarette butts in the sink of the bathroom. The deceased's DNA was also found on blood staining on a white t-shirt found in the appellant's apartment. Vaginal swabs from the deceased also contained semen matching the DNA of the appellant. It was also established that the appellant was highly likely to have been the father of the deceased's 10-week old foetus.

6

The appellant maintained his right to silence throughout a number of interviews conducted by gardaí in Donegal. Subsequently, he admitted having killed the deceased but maintained that he had had a row with her in the aftermath of consensual sexual activity, and that he had lost control and grabbed her, pushing her onto a bed and placing his hand on her throat after she had told him that her baby was not his and that she intended to have an abortion. He maintained that he when he left the deceased's home he believed that she was alive and merely unconscious. He did not call an ambulance or otherwise seek assistance for Ms. Quigley.

7

Shorty after 6 a.m. on the 27th July 2008, the appellant summoned a taxi to collect him a short distance from the deceased's home. He gave the taxi driver a false name and exited the taxi a short distance from his own home.

8

On the morning of the 27th July 2008, the appellant attended at the Letterkenny home of an acquaintance, James Casey, who subsequently made statements to the PSNI in Strand Road police station in Derry on the 29th July 2008 and on subsequent dates. These statements and their admission into evidence pursuant to s. 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 are at the core of this appeal.

9

In the course of its investigation into the deceased's death the PSNI sought the assistance of the gardaí in apprehending the appellant. He was apprehended by the gardaí in Donegal town on the 5th August 2008. He initially gave the gardaí a false name, but shortly thereafter admitted his true identity. He was cautioned and arrested. He was interviewed extensively by the gardaí, but maintained his right to silence. He did not return to Derry and was never questioned by the PSNI.

The Grounds of Appeal
10

The appellant's grounds of appeal are as follows:

(i) The learned trial judge erred in law in admitting the statements of James Casey into evidence pursuant to Section 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006;

(ii) the learned trial judge erred in law in finding that the statements of James Casey were both "reliable" and "voluntary" within the meaning of Section 16(2)(b)(ii) and (iii) of the 2006 Act and

(iii) the learned trial judge erred in law in admitting the statements of James Casey as it was unfair to the accused and not in the interests of justice.

Section 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006
11

Section 16 provides as follows:

'16(1) Where a person has been sent forward for trial for an arrestable offence, a statement relevant to the proceedings made by a witness (in this section referred to as "the statement") may, with the leave of the court, be admitted in accordance with this section as evidence of any fact mentioned in it if the witness, although available for cross-examination:-

(a) refuses to give evidence,

(b) denies making the statement, or

(c) gives evidence which is materially inconsistent with it.

(2) The statement may be so admitted:-

(a) the witness confirms, or it is proved, that he or she made it,

(b) the court is satisfied:-

(i) that direct oral evidence of the fact concerned would be admissible in the proceedings,

(ii) that it was made voluntarily, and

(iii) that it is reliable,

and

(c) either:-

(i) the statement was given on oath or affirmation or contains a statutory declaration by the witness to the effect that the statement is true to the best of his or her knowledge or belief, or

(ii) the court is otherwise satisfied that when the statement was made the witness understood the requirement to tell the truth.

(3) In deciding whether the statement is reliable the court shall have regard to—

(a) whether it was given on oath or affirmation or was video recorded, or

(b) if paragraph (a) does not apply in relation to the statement, whether by reason of the circumstances in which it was made, there is other sufficient evidence in support of its reliability,

and shall also have regard to:-

(i) any explanation by the witness for refusing to give evidence or for giving evidence which is inconsistent with the statement, or

(ii) where the witness denies making the statement, any evidence given in relation to the denial.

(4) The statement shall not be admitted in evidence under this section if the court is of opinion:-

(a) having had regard to all the circumstances, including any risk that its admission would be unfair to the accused or, if there are more than one accused, to any of them, that in the interests of justice it ought not to be so admitted, or

(b) that its admission is unnecessary, having regard to other evidence given in the proceedings.

(5) In estimating the weight, if any, to be attached to the statement regard shall be had to all the circumstances from which any inference can reasonably be drawn as to its accuracy or otherwise.

(6) This section is without prejudice to sections 3 to 6 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1865 and section 21 (proof by written statement) of the Act of 1984.'

The Statements
12

The Court has had the benefit of reading the seven transcripts of the...

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