DPP v Murphy

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeBirmingham P.
Judgment Date20 Jun 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] IECA 187
Docket Number[296/16]

[2018] IECA 187

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Birmingham J.

Birmingham P.

Mahon J.

Edwards J.

[296/16]

THE PEOPLE AT THE SUIT OF THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
RESPONDENT
V.
SEAMUS MURPHY
APPELLANT

Conviction – Assaulting a Peace Officer – Unfair trial – Appellant seeking to appeal against conviction – Whether trial was unfair

Facts: The appellant, Mr Murphy, on the 5th July 2016, was convicted on two counts that had appeared on an indictment, that being an offence of assaulting a Peace Officer, contrary to s. 19(1) of the Criminal Justice Public Order Act 1994 and an offence of obstruction of traffic contrary to s. 98 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. Subsequently, on the 28th October 2016, he was sentenced to a term of three years imprisonment which was suspended in relation to the assault offence and the traffic obstruction charge was taken into consideration. He appealed to the Court of Appeal against conviction on the grounds that the trial judge: 1A) erred in response to a question asked by the jury concerning a blue line that appeared on an expert witness report dated 6th October 2015 which had been completed by Dr Jordan, engineer and defence witness; 1B) erred when the jury asked for a copy of an updated report from Dr Brunker dealing with injuries sustained by Sergeant Murphy in circumstances where the contents of the report had been read pursuant to the provisions of s. 21 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984, and the judge declined to furnish this; 2) failed to discharge the jury to deal with the prejudicial remarks made by prosecution counsel in his closing speech that the appellant was "mean and petty, "the most dangerous man in North Mayo" and to "watch out if you go against him"; 3) failed to discharge the jury or otherwise deal adequately with a reply given to a question by Sergeant Murphy that "GSOC said 'we did nothing wrong'"; 4) failed to give the appellant sufficient time within which to secure the services of another legal team before concluding the case; 5) admitted in evidence an incomplete version of an audio recording of the incident recorded by the wife of the appellant, which recording omitted sounds consistent with the account given at trial by the appellant and his wife.

Held by the Court that it was not prepared to uphold any ground of appeal that had been advanced. The Court was satisfied that the trial was a fair one and that the outcome was safe.

The Court held that it would dismiss the appeal against conviction.

Appeal dismissed.

JUDGMENT of the Court delivered by Birmingham P. on the 11th day of June 2018
Introduction
1

On the 5th July 2016, the appellant, Mr. Seamus Murphy, was convicted on two counts that had appeared on an indictment, that being an offence of assaulting a Peace Officer, contrary to s. 19(1) of the Criminal Justice Public Order Act 1994 as amended by s. 185 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, and an offence of obstruction of traffic contrary to s. 98 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. Subsequently, on the 28th October 2016, he was sentenced to a term of three years imprisonment which was suspended in relation to the assault offence and the traffic obstruction charge was taken into consideration

2

He has now appealed against conviction. For completeness, it should be noted that the indictment had contained four counts; the two counts on which convictions were recorded, as well as a further count of assaulting a Peace Officer and a count of dangerous driving. Verdicts of not guilty were returned on these counts. The assault on which a guilty verdict was returned related to that committed against Garda Sergeant James Murphy, while a not guilty verdict was returned on a count relating to Sergeant Maria Hayes.

3

The background to the trial, and now this appeal, is to be found in events that occurred very early in the morning, soon after midnight, on 14th July 2013, at Garrynagran, Moygownagh, County Mayo. In essence, the prosecution case was that the appellant was driving a tractor with a motor attached at Ballinagur. Mr. John J. Heffron and his son, Darragh Heffron, came upon the tractor. It is alleged that the tractor, which was being driven by the appellant was being driven very slowly so as to block any attempt by the Heffrons to pass. The prosecution case was that on a number of occasions, Mr. Seamus Murphy reversed the tractor and mower towards the jeep in which the Heffrons were travelling. This manoeuvre resulted in the charge of dangerous driving in respect of which a not guilty verdict was returned. Mr. Heffron made contact with Ballina Garda station, resulting in Sergeant Murphy and Sergeant Hayes being despatched to the area.

4

The Gardaí say that they arrived at a section of roadway which was being blocked by the tractor and mower. Sergeant Hayes said that she saw a male run into the middle of the road, but he then retreated towards the tractor when he saw a Garda car. Sergeant Murphy called out to Mr. Murphy, but he ignored the Sergeant and instead climbed into the tractor. Sergeant Murphy approached the tractor and Mr. Murphy threw an object at him. According to the Gardaí, Mr. Murphy then slammed the door, shattering glass over the two Sergeants. Sergeant Murphy climbed up onto the tractor, but Mr. Murphy began to drive it, forcing the Sergeant to hang on to the cab frame. Sergeant Hayes says that she was forced to jump out of the way of the mower. The jury heard that Sergeant Murphy attempted to turn off the engine, but was prevented from doing this by Mr. Murphy. The prosecution alleged that at that stage, Mr. Murphy hit, scraped and bit Sergeant Murphy a number of times.

5

Contact was made with Ballina Garda station seeking assistance. Sergeant Murphy arrested Mr. Murphy at 01.45am in relation to dangerous driving, but the appellant continued to resist. Sergeant Murphy says that he was forced to resort to the use of pepper spray. Efforts were made to place Mr. Murphy in the squad car, but he continued to resist. Sergeant Hayes resorted to using her ASP baton twice. Mr. Murphy then took possession of this and attempted to hit Sergeant Hayes with it. At one stage, the two Sergeants resorted to sitting on Mr. Murphy in order to restrain him. Soon after, a party of Gardaí arrived on the scene, and with their assistance, Mr. Murphy was placed in a patrol car and brought to Ballina Garda station.

6

At trial, the appellant was represented by solicitor and counsel, a different legal team to those that represented him during the appeal hearing. The trial, and in particular the...

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1 cases
  • DPP v Murphy
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 22 May 2019
    ...of assaulting a police officer acting in the course of his duty and one charge of obstructing traffic (see The People (DPP) v Murphy [2018] IECA 187). The Trial 4 The applicant originally faced four charges. He was acquitted of assaulting a second officer, and was also acquitted of a charge......

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