Judgment Date14 December 2011
Docket Number[C.C.A. No. 161 of 2009]
Date14 December 2011
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal

Court of Criminal Appeal

[C.C.A. No. 161 of 2009]
The People (Director of Public Prosecutions) v. McMahon
In the matter of an application pursuant to s. 2(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1993. The People (at the suit of The Director of Public Prosecutions)
Anthony McMahon

Cases mentioned in this report:-

The Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, 1999 [2000] 2 I.R. 360.

Veen v. R. (No.1) (1979) 143 C.L.R. 458; [1979] 23 A.L.R. 281.

Veen v. R. (No. 2) (1988) 164 C.L.R. 465; [1988] 77 A.L.R. 385; [1988] 62 AL J.R. 224.

Criminal law - Sentencing - Preventative detention - Guilty plea - Risk of immediate and serious harm to others - Medical evidence showing that accused did not know acts were wrong - Sufficient evidence for finding of not guilty by reason of insanity on not guilty plea - Detention in medical setting required for appropriate treatment - Detention under mental health legislation not open to sentencing court - Whether sentencing court entitled to impose life sentence to achieve similar outcome - Criminal Justice Act 1993 (No. 6), s. 2(1) - Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 (No. 26), ss. 3 and 4 - Mental Health Act 2001 (No. 25), s. 3 - Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 (No. 11), s. 5(1).

Application pursuant to s. 2(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1993

The facts are summarised in the headnote and are more fully set out in the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal delivered by O'Donnell J., infra.

The accused was sentenced at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court by Judge Moran. The prosecutor applied for leave to appeal against sentence by way of notice dated the 10th June, 2009, on grounds that it was unduly lenient.

The appeal was heard by the Court of Criminal Appeal (O'Donnell, Clark and O'Keeffe JJ.) on the 8th November, 2010.

The accused attacked medical staff at a psychiatric hospital of which he was a patient. The accused pleaded guilty to charges contrary to ss. 3 and 4 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 which carried respective maximum sentences of life and five years imprisonment.

At the sentence hearing evidence was given that the accused was convicted of manslaughter in 2004. He was released from prison eight months prior to the current incident. He expressed his intention to plead guilty in order to obtain a shorter sentence. The accused's treating psychiatrist at the time of the sentencing hearing gave evidence that the accused was fit to plead and to be tried but that he presented a serious risk of immediate and serious harm to others. Evidence was given that the medical treatment of the accused required a hospital setting to ensure appropriate medical supervision and monitoring. The psychiatrist also gave evidence that he was of the opinion that the accused satisfied the test under s. 5(1) of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 in that while he may have known the nature of the act he was committing he did not know that what he was doing was wrong. This evidence meant that if the accused had pleaded not guilty, stood trial and a jury had accepted the evidence of the psychiatrist then the accused could have been found not guilty by reason of insanity in which case he would have been subject to detention in the Central Mental Hospital under the Act of 2006. However, given the plea of guilty, detention on mental health grounds was not open to the sentencing court.

The prosecutor invited the sentencing judge to impose a life sentence on the basis that if a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity had been reached after a trial that the accused would have been detained in the Central Mental Hospital until he was considered safe to be released and that a similar outcome should be achieved by a sentence passed after his guilty plea. The judge imposed concurrent sentences of ten and three years in respect of the offences under ss. 4 and 3 respectively. The prosecutor appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal, pursuant to s. 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993, contending that the sentence was unduly lenient.

Held by the Court of Criminal Appeal (O'Donnell, Clark and O'Keeffe JJ.), in dismissing the appeal, 1, that the protection of the public was an appropriate factor in the exercise of the sentencing function but a self standing judicially created jurisdiction to impose a form of preventative detention could not be extracted from that function.

Veen v. R. (No.2) (1988) 164 C.L.R. 465 followed;Veen v. R. (No.1) (1979) 143 C.L.R. 458 considered.

2. That the court's power to impose sentence for a criminal offence could not by itself permit the court to impose open ended detention on the grounds of anticipated future risk of harm.

Cur. adv. vult.

In accordance with the provisions of s. 28 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal was delivered by a single member.

O'Donnell J.

14th December, 2011

[1] This case raises an important and difficult issue in relation to the sentencing of offenders who by reason of mental illness pose a serious risk of immediate harm to others.

[2] On the 17th January, 2008, the accused attended St. Anne's Day Hospital, Roxboro Road, Limerick, a day hospital for people suffering from psychiatric illness. He was being treated by Dr. Ananth Pullela, a consultant psychiatrist. The accused had been refusing injections of medication which had been prescribed for him. He was angry with the advice given to him by Dr. Pullela that it was important to continue with his medication. He also believed that his family were putting pressure on him to take the medication. Dr. Pullela however persuaded the accused to go to Willowdale Hospital that afternoon for the injection and the accused left but returned to St. Anne's shortly after at around 2.45 p.m. requesting to see Dr. Pullela again. He found Dr. Pullela in a corridor and attacked him with a knife stabbing him on his front and right side and chest and into his right elbow. He stabbed him in total eight times. A psychologist, Dr. Burns, working in the hospital heard the commotion and came out of her office and went down the stairs. She opened the door and saw a man coming towards her...

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3 cases
  • Minister for Justice v Balmer
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 12 May 2016
    ...which is permissible.? This statement was cited with approval in the Court of Criminal Appeal in People (DPP) v. Anthony McMahon [2011] 3 I.R. 774, and was quoted in the Court of Appeal by Hogan J. in Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform v. Craig [2015] I.E.C.A. 89, which is the ca......
  • DPP v M.R
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 29 July 2022
    ...to the judgment of the former Court of Criminal Appeal in this jurisdiction, in the People (Director of Public Prosecutions) v. McMahon [2011] 3 I.R. 774. This was an undue leniency appeal involving a mentally ill offender, with a previous conviction for manslaughter, who had pleaded guilty......
  • DPP v Clarke
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 12 December 2014
    ...the offender; the protection of the public was an appropriate factor to be taken into account by the trial judge, citing DPP v McMahon [2011] 3 IR 774; the trial judge had taken all mitigating factors into account, including the appellant”s guilty plea and the risk that he could be subjecte......

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