DPP v Griffin

JudgeMr. Justice Birmingham
Judgment Date23 March 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] IECA 91
Docket Number149/14
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Date23 March 2018
The People at the Suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Dermot Griffin

[2018] IECA 91



Conviction – Manslaughter – Fresh evidence – Appellant seeking to appeal against conviction – Whether the judge erred in failing to accede to a request for the discharge of the jury

Facts: The appellant, Mr Griffin, on 20th May, 2014, following a trial that lasted some 13 days, was convicted of manslaughter. He appealed to the Court of Appeal against that conviction. A large number of grounds of appeal were formulated, many of which involved a complaint that the judge erred in failing to accede to a request for the discharge of the jury. There was also an application to adduce fresh evidence. The appellant submitted that the cumulative effect of the matters about which he raised complaints rendered the trial unsatisfactory and the verdict unsafe.

Held by the Court that it was prepared to accept in principle that there may be cases where individual issues are identified which would not on an isolated basis result in a conviction being quashed but the cumulative effect of the matters identified as unsatisfactory would necessitate such a course. However, the Court was satisfied that the complaints advanced by the appellant did not, either individually or collectively, establish that the trial was unsatisfactory or the verdict unsafe.

The Court held that it would dismiss the appeal.

Appeal dismissed.

JUDGMENT of the Court delivered on the 23rd day of March 2018 by Mr. Justice Birmingham

At approximately 5 am on 1st September, 2001 a fire started in a make-shift den between 2 and 4 Rossfield Avenue in Tallaght, Dublin 24, resulting in the death of Stephen Hughes. The den had been built by a group of children during August, 2001. On the night in question, Stephen Hughes, aged 12, and Daryl Hall, aged 14, had slept in the den. When it caught fire Daryl managed to escape but sadly Stephen did not.


On 20th May, 2014, following a trial that lasted some 13 days, the appellant was convicted of manslaughter. He has now appealed that conviction.


At trial, the jury viewed CCTV footage from the house of a neighbour, Ian Reilly, which showed an unidentified man approaching the make-shift den at around 5 am, and the den catching fire immediately thereafter. The man appeared to have a dog with him. Jason Lambe, a Rossfield Ave. resident, who lived in No. 18, told the jury that the appellant and his then partner, Ms Tracey Deegan, alerted him to the fire on the night in question. Mr Lambe said that he and some of his friends were drinking together in his living room when the appellant and Miss Deegan knocked on his window. He was told by the appellant and Miss Deegan that that there was a fire and a child was in it. Mr Lambe and his friend Mr Delahunty then went to the fire with the appellant and Miss Deegan. Another witness, Philip Morris gave evidence of hearing screaming at the time of the fire. He lived directly opposite the den and was first onto the scene. He was followed shortly afterwards by the others.


The appellant was interviewed in 2001, and at that stage stated that he had stayed indoors on the night in question at No. 16, Rossfield Drive, along with Miss Deegan. He said that he only left the house after he heard screaming. His story was supported at the time by Miss Deegan, his then partner, and she confirmed this again in 2006 when the case was re-examined. This reassessment followed on from another witness, Linda Prentice, in 2006 informing the Gardaí that she had seen the appellant set fire to the den, whereas, back in 2001, Ms Prentice had told Gardaí that she had not seen anything. Also in 2006, James Farrelly came forward to say that he too had seen the appellant that night. His evidence was that the appellant had been in the middle of a road and had threatened him, telling him that he would kill him if he opened his mouth and told anyone that he had seen him.


In 2012, Tracey Deegan admitted lying to the Gardaí in earlier investigations. She made a statement that the appellant left the house twice on the night of the fire. He told her he was going to burn down the hut. The first time he came back from the hut, he had told her that he had visited the hut and felt a foot there. He told her when he returned on the second occasion that night that he had burnt the hut down. Ms Deegan, Ms Prentice and Mr Farrelly were significant prosecution witnesses at trial.


A large number of grounds of appeal have been formulated. It is striking how many of these involve a complaint that the judge erred in failing to accede to a request for the discharge of the jury. There is also an application to adduce fresh evidence. The Court will deal with that application first and will then deal with the other issues raised. The Court will deal with the issues in the same order as they were raised in the appellant's written submissions.

The application to adduce fresh evidence

The appellant has sought leave to argue an additional ground that 'the conviction was unsafe and unsatisfactory in circumstances where a third party, who was present at the locus of the commission of the alleged offence in or about the relevant time of the offence has admitted committing the offence.' The background to the application to argue the additional ground arises from the fact that on 8th February, 2016 the solicitors for the appellant received correspondence enclosing a statement from Garda Stephen Gillespie dated 27th January, 2016, a memorandum of interview with one Shane Butterly conducted by Garda Gillespie dated 19th January, 2016, a statement of Sergeant Keith Halley, undated, a statement of Detective Garda Colin Rochford dated 4th February, 2016, and notes from an interview with Shane Butterly dated 1st February, 2016 conducted by Detective Garda Rochford and Detective Garda Camon Ryan, a statement of Shane Butterly dated 13th September, 2001 and a statement of Eugene Buttlerly dated 10th December, 2001.


As appears from the documentation furnished to the solicitors for the defence, it appears that on 19th January, 2016, at approximately 2.50 am Mr Shane Butterly came to Tallaght Garda Station where Garda Stephen Gillespie was on duty in the public office. According to Garda Gillespie Mr Butterly looked dishevelled and confused and at first Garda Gilliespie thought that he was intoxicated. Mr Butterly told him he wanted to confess to a murder, the murder of Stephen. Garda Gillespie asked Mr Butterly was he drinking and Mr Butterly said that he had had four cans and a joint. In his statement Garda Gillespie says that Mr Butterly seemed to be nervous or paranoid and had then said that Stephen was haunting him and that the devil was inside him. Garda Gillepie records Mr Butterly as saying that he heard voices. Garda Gillespie then cautioned Mr Butterly and then asked him when did this happen and he replied 'years ago'. Garda Gillespie asked Mr Butterly what age he was when it happened and he replied '19'. Mr Butterly said that he was now 34. Garda Gillespie spoke to the sergeant in charge, Sergeant Keith Halley, and informed him of what Mr Butterly had said. Sergeant Halley then went to the public office where again Mr Butterly said that he had killed Stephen. Garda Gillespie brought Mr Butterly to a side room off the public office and then asked him whether he understood the caution which he had been given and explained to him that he was not under arrest and could leave at any stage. Mr Butterly said that he understood this. Garda Gillespie then asked Mr Butterly questions and recorded his response in his notebook. While Garda Gillespie was doing this Mr Butterly asked that he be put into a cell and that a doctor should be got for him. Garda Gillespie said he stopped and asked Mr Butterly if he required medical attention and that Mr Butterly again said that he wanted to see a doctor. Garda Gillespie stopped the questioning, read over the notes that he had taken, asked if the notes taken were correct or whether Mr Butterly wished to make any changes or alterations, which Mr Butterly did not want to do. Mr Butterly signed the notebook and Garda Gillespie witnessed the signature. Garda Gillespie then brought Mr Butterly to Tallaght Hospital in order to see a doctor and stayed with him until he saw a nurse. There after Detective Garda Colin Rochford was directed to locate Shane Butterly and see if he was willing to speak to him further. Detective Garda Rochford called in late January on the father of Shane Butterly who was not able to provide him with details of his son's whereabouts other than to say that he was staying in a hostel somewhere in Cabra. Mr Butterly Senior went on to say that his son Shane had only been released from Dundrum Central Mental Hospital. On 1st February, 2016 Detective Garda Rochford and Detective Garda Camon Ryan called to a location where Shane Butterly was. Mr Shane Butterly confirmed that he had previously called to Tallaght Garda Station. Mr Shane Butterly was asked if he would take part in an interview regarding this and he said he would. Mr Butterly asked for a lift to the garda station as he had no money. On route to Tallaght Garda Station, Gardaí contacted Mr John O'Leary, Solicitor, who said that he would attend at Tallaght Garda Station and did so within a matter of minutes. At 1.05 pm on that date Mr Butterly was brought to an interview room in the company of his solicitor. An interview was then conducted which was video recorded. In that interview Mr Shane Butterly said he had not played any role in the fatal fire in Rossfield, that when he called to the garda station on the previous occasion he was sick, not having got his medication. The appellant says that the confession by Mr Butterly, notwithstanding its subsequent retraction, raises issues about the safety of the conviction. He says...

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