DPP v Eadon

JudgeMr Justice Peter Charleton,Mr. Justice William M. McKechnie
Judgment Date20 December 2019
Neutral Citation[2019] IESC 98
Docket Number[S.C. No. 131 of 2018],Supreme Court Record No: 131/2018 Central Criminal Court Bill No: 58/2011
Date20 December 2019
CourtSupreme Court

[2019] IESC 98

Clarke C.J.

McKechnie J.

Charleton J.

O'Malley J.

Irvine J.

Supreme Court Record No: 131/2018

Court of Appeal Record No: 44/2014

Central Criminal Court Bill No: 58/2011


Conviction – Murder – Intoxication – Appellant seeking to appeal against conviction – Whether there was an incorrect direction by the trial judge on intoxication

Facts: The accused/appellant, Mr Eadon, was 19 years old when he killed his mother at their family home in Derrycrieve, County Mayo. On being arraigned in January 2014 before the Central Criminal Court, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. At trial, the homicide and the accused’s responsibility for it were not contested. The jury considered the facts in order to search out the accused’s state of mind so as to determine whether the plea to manslaughter properly met the fault of the accused or whether he should instead be convicted of murder. The jury, making findings of fact on issues of diminished responsibility and intoxication as partial defences to murder, rejected these defences and, on 5 February 2014, returned a verdict of guilty of murder. That conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeal on 15 May 2018. Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court was granted on 16 April 2019 on two issues: intoxication as a defence to murder and the adequacy of the judge’s charge on that defence.

Held by the Court that there was an incorrect direction by the trial judge on intoxication mixing up a lack of capacity with a lack of intent.

The Court held that there should be an order overturning the decision of the Court of Appeal and returning the prosecution to the Central Criminal Court so that a decision could be made by the prosecutor/respondent, the Director of Public Prosecutions, as to whether to retry the accused for murder or whether the existing plea of guilty to manslaughter was acceptable in all the circumstances.

Appeal allowed.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice William M. McKechnie delivered on the 20th day of December, 2019

On the 5th February, 2014, the Appellant was convicted of the murder of his mother Noreen Kelly on the 9th March, 2011. A plea to manslaughter was offered in advance of trial but was rejected by the DPP. The fact of the killing was not in dispute at trial. In effect, the only two issues for the jury concerned the partial defences of diminished responsibility and intoxication. Both were relied upon by the Appellant; if either had been accepted by the jury, the appropriate conviction would have been for manslaughter rather than murder.


The Appellant appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeal, arguing that the trial judge misdirected the jury concerning the issue of his intoxication and its relevance to the jury's assessment of the issues. His appeal was dismissed, but he has been granted leave to further appeal to this Court on two points of law of general public importance. The first concerns the adequacy of the judicial direction instructing the jury on intoxication and specific intention: is it sufficient for the trial judge to charge the jury on the issue of whether the accused had the necessary capacity to form the intention, or must the judge stress that the applicable test is whether the accused in fact had the necessary intention? The second issue is whether it is permissible to have regard to counsels' closing speeches for the purposes of remedying any deficiencies in the judge's charge.

Factual Background and Trial in the Central Criminal Court

There was no real dispute as to the essential facts at trial. As will be seen, it was accepted by all that the Appellant had unlawfully killed his mother by stabbing her multiple times with a knife on the 9th March, 2011. The Appellant was charged with murder. He made an offer to plead guilty to manslaughter ahead of the trial but this plea was rejected by the DPP.


At his trial the Appellant raised two alternative defences, either of which, if accepted by the jury, would have resulted in a conviction for manslaughter rather than for murder. He sought to rely, first, upon the statutory defence of diminished responsibility, as provided for by section 6 of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006, arguing that at the time of the killing he was suffering from a mental disorder which was such as to diminish substantially his responsibility for the act, albeit accepting that it was not such not such as to justify finding him not guilty by reason of insanity. Second, and in the alternative, he raised the defence of intoxication, insofar as that can be a partial defence to a crime of specific intent such as murder, arguing that by virtue of his intoxicated state he lacked the specific intent necessary for the homicide to be characterised as murder rather than manslaughter. These two defences were, in effect, the only live issues in the case.


The factual background is set out at paras. 5-15 of the judgment of the Court of Appeal and does not need to be repeated in full here. However, in light of the particular issues on which leave has been granted to appeal to this Court, it is necessary to set out, in perhaps a little bit more detail than would usually be the case, the salient portions of counsels' closing speeches, as well as the learned trial judge's charge, the requisitions of counsel and the re-charge. But first, a summary of the evidence.

The Facts and Evidence

The trial was heard before Carney J and a jury in the Central Criminal Court over nine days from the 24th January, 2014 to the 5th February, 2014. As stated, much of the factual background was accepted at trial, and certainly is not in dispute on appeal.


In the early hours of the morning of the 9th March, 2011, the Appellant stabbed his mother to death in a frenzied knife attack. She sustained some 19 stab wounds, mostly to the face and chest. The Appellant was 19 years old at the time and had no previous history of violence towards his mother, with whom he lived in the family home together with his younger siblings.


The defence case, insofar as it related to intoxication, was that the Appellant was in a drug-induced psychosis at the time of the killing. Evidence was given of his serious and longstanding substance abuse issues. The jury heard that he had abused alcohol and cannabis since he was 13. In the two years prior to this incident he had begun consuming other drugs including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, ecstasy and methadone. In the 18 months prior to the incident he had been spending approximately €400 per week on drugs and drank large quantities of alcohol almost every day.


The evidence was that the Appellant had consumed a large amount of drugs in the days leading up to this incident, and that owing to his methamphetamine use he had not slept for four days. Several witnesses testified as to the effects that these drugs were having on him during this time period; as summarised by the Court of Appeal:

“During this period he suffered paranoid delusions and engaged in erratic behaviour: spraying deodorant to ward off demons; believing he was being pursued by aliens and making crop circles to communicate with them; asserting that fire ants and demons were emerging from the walls; imagining that the house was full of smoke; blocking the air vent in his bedroom with coins and stones because he believed the room was being filled with poison gas; and setting on fire an electrical socket and the family cat's bed.” (para. 6)

Further examples could be added: he believed that people were spying on him; that the army were looking for him and had used some sort of gas around his house; he poured petrol around the house and was going around with a hatchet; he was seen being cruel to animals; and he believed that there had been a nuclear explosion the previous morning. In interview with the Gardaí he expressed the view that certain people (including, apparently, his mother) had been replaced with imposters.


This evidence came from a number of witnesses who saw and interacted with the Appellant during the days prior to the incident. These included his father, Mark Eadon, who was separated from the Appellant's mother and had fallen out with the Appellant some months earlier; the deceased had sought his help in dealing with the Appellant on the 8th March, 2011. When he arrived at the house he found that the Appellant had barricaded his mother and younger brother out of the house and that he came across as paranoid and delusional. The jury heard from the Appellant's uncle Patrick Kelly, brother of the deceased, whom she had also looked to for help on the 8th March, 2011. He was a long-time member of Alcoholics Anonymous and visited the house with a friend, Mr Kevin Mitchell, who was a recovered drug addict. Mr Kelly knew that “there was something seriously wrong”. Mr Mitchell gave evidence that the Appellant's mind was gone and that he had never seen anyone that bad before. Diane Macko, a friend of the deceased, also visited the family home on the 8th March and gave evidence as to the Appellant's paranoid state. The jury heard from the Appellant's younger brother, Ferdia Eadon, that he believed that his brother was suffering from heavy delusions, paranoia and hallucinations and that there appeared to be something mentally wrong with him in the days leading up to the 9th March. Finally, a Mr John Scott, whose home was in a neighbouring townland, gave evidence that the Appellant showed up at his house at approximately 7.20a.m. on the 9th March wearing only tracksuit bottoms, with his body covered in cuts and scratches. Mr Scott believed that the Appellant had been outside for some time. He gave evidence that the Appellant had told him that he had been abducted by aliens who experimented on him, that the...

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8 cases
  • DPP v McNamara
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 26 June 2020
    ...of intoxication to cases where due to drink or drugs the accused lacked the specific intent to kill; see The People (DPP) v Eadon [2019] IESC 98. Repeatedly, in argument before this court on behalf of the accused, it was said that provocation rarely succeeds. There is no information proffe......
  • The People (at the suit of the DPP) v FN (A Minor)
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 23 May 2022
    ...in elucidating the nature of intent and of confining the defence of intoxication within proper limits; The People (DPP) v Eadon [2019] 2019 IESC 98. Here, we are not dealing with a specific intent; an intent beyond bringing about the external elements of the offence. A specific intent may b......
  • DPP v Almasi
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 26 June 2020
    ...is extended to allow any drunken or drugged notion to partially excuse a complete lack of self-restraint; The People (DPP) v Eadon [2019] IESC 98 where the elements of the defence of intoxication require a complete loss as a matter of fact of the specific intent to kill or cause serious in......
  • DPP v Andrzej Benko
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 14 May 2021
    ...fall into error in the manner in which he directed the jury in relation to the presumption. The appeal against conviction is dismissed. 1 [2019] IESC 98 2 [1985] IRLM 25 3 [2015] 4 IR 84 4 [2016] IECA 270 5 See, for example, R v. Farrington 168 ER 763, R v. Martin 8 QBD 54, R v. Meade [190......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Exploring rape conviction rates: consent, false allegations and legal obstacles
    • Ireland
    • Irish Judicial Studies Journal No. 2-20, July 2020
    • 1 July 2020
    ...(DPP) v Cagney and McGrath [2008] 2 IR 111; The People (DPP) v Murray [1977] IR 360. 92 O’R (n 80) [47]. 93 The People (DPP) v Eadon [2019] IESC 98, [12]. [2020] Irish Judicial Studies Journal Vol 4(1) 207 IRISH JUDICIAL STUDIES JOURNAL 207 statement that is both part admission and part den......

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