DPP v Pringle (No 2)

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeLynch J.,BLAYNEY J.
Judgment Date04 March 1997
Neutral Citation1997 WJSC-SC 2719
CourtSupreme Court
Docket Number53/96,[No. 2 C.P.A. of 1994; S.C. No. 53 of 1996]
Date04 March 1997
DPP v. PRINGLE
THE PEOPLE (AT THE SUIT OF THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLICPROSECUTIONS)
Respondent\Defendant
v.
PETER PRINGLE
Applicant\Appellant

1997 WJSC-SC 2719

Blayney J.

Denham J.

Barrington J.

Murphy J.

Lynch J.

53/96

THE SUPREME COURT

Synopsis:

Criminal

Compensation; conviction for capital murder and robbery quashed under s.2, Criminal Procedure Act, 1993; whether applicant entitled to certificate under s.9, Criminal Procedure Act, 1993 that there was miscarriage of justice so as to entitle him to compensation; whether onus of proof on applicant to show miscarriage of justice Held: Onus of proof on applicant to show miscarriage; Court of Criminal Appeal correct in refusing to grant certificate; case referred back to Court so that applicant may renew application and adduce further evidence (Supreme Court: Blayney J., Denham J., Barrington J., Murphy J., Lynch J. 04/03/1997)

People (D.P.P.) v. Pringle

[1997] 2 IR 232

Citations:

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S9

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S2

DPP V MELEADY & GROGAN 1995 2 IR 517

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S2

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S2(2)

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S3(1)(a)

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S9(1)(a)(ii)

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S9(1)(a)(i)

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S9(2)

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S9(3)

CONSTITUTION ART 38.1

KELLY IRISH CONSTITUTION 586–587

O'LEARY V AG 1993 1 IR 102

O'LEARY V AG 1995 1 IR 254

CHIDIAC & ANOR V REG 1991 LRC 360

DPP, PEOPLE V EGAN 1990 ILRM 780, 3 FREWEN 269

AG, PEOPLE V WILLIAMS 1940 IR 195

R V COOPER 1969 1 QB 267

ROBINS V NATIONAL TRUST CO LTD 1927 AC 515

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S9(1)

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE ACT 1993 S3

1

JUDGMENT delivered on the 4th day of March 1997by BLAYNEY J. [DENHAM, BARRINGTON MURPHY CONC]

2

The issue before the Court on this appeal is the question submitted to it by the Court of Criminal Appeal. By its order of the 28th July 1995 the Court of Criminal Appeal certified that its decision refusing a certificate pursuant to s. 9 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1993involved a point of exceptional public importance and that it was desirable in the public interest that an appeal should be taken to the Supreme Court on such point. The point referred to is contained in the following question which has been submitted to this Court:

"Is the Court in its judgment delivered today, the 28th of July 1995, correct in refusing to the applicant a certificate under section 9 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1993in the light of its findings in the judgment delivered on the 16th May1995?"

3

In order to answer the question it is necessary to start by considering three relevant matters:

4

1. The findings of the Court of Criminal Appeal in its judgment of the 16th May 1995.

5

2. The provisions of s. 9 of the 1993 Act, and

6

3. the grounds on which the Court of Criminal Appeal refused the certificate under s. 9.

7

I propose to deal with each of these in turn.

8

1. The findings of the Court of Criminal Appeal in its judgment of the 16th May 1995.

9

The judgment determined an application by the appellant under s. 2 of the 1993 Act alleging that a newly discovered fact showed that there had been a miscarriage of justice in relation to his conviction. The appellant had been convicted by the Special Criminal Court on the 23rd November 1980 on charges of capital murder and robbery. Leave to appeal was refused by the Court of Criminal Appeal on the 22nd May 1981. The appellant had beensentenced to death on the charges of capital murder and after the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal, refusing leave to appeal, this sentence was commuted by the President, acting on the advice of the Government, to one of forty years imprisonment without remission.

10

The principal piece of evidence on which the Special Criminal Court relied as establishing the guilt of the appellant was thefollowing:

"A statement alleged to have been made by [the appellant] to Detective Inspector Culhane and Detective Sergeant Connolly at Eglinton Street Garda Station on the morning of the 21st of July 1980 when he said "I know that you know I was involved but on the advice of my solicitor, I am saying nothing and you will have to prove it all theway"."

11

It was argued before the Court of Criminal Appeal that newly discovered evidence threw a doubt on Detective Sergeant Connolly's credibility and on that ground the appellant's conviction should be set aside.The Court of Criminal Appeal accepted this submission. The relevant part of its findings is as follows:

"As has been held by the Court of Criminal Appeal in Meleady and Grogan v. D.P.P., the Criminal Procedure Act, 1993is intended "to afford relief to those who could point to materials which, if they had been available at the trial, might, not necessarily would, have raised a reasonable doubt in the mind of the(Court).""

12

Applying that test this Court is left in no doubt that if counsel for the accused at the hearing had had available to him the knowledge that Detective Sergeant Connolly would say that he had handed the blood stained tissue to Detective Sergeant Ennis and that Detective Sergeant Ennis would say that he had not received thee tissue, then this conflict as to the credibility of Detective Sergeant Connolly might have raised a reasonable doubt in the mind of the Special Criminal Court resulting in a rejection of the disputed statement by the Court.

13

Accordingly, on the third point raised in submissions in this Court, the Court finds that a newly discovered fact exists in the case which renders the conviction of the applicant unsafe andunsatisfactory."

14

As appears from the final paragraph of the passage cited, two other submissions had been put forward on behalf of the appellant, but these had been rejected by the Court. The appellant succeeded on the single finding referred to.

15

The provisions of s. 9 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1993. This is a relatively long section but it is only necessary to refer to one part of it. It is not in dispute that the appellant established a "newly discovered fact" as defined by the section, and that, if the Court were to grant the relevant certificate, the appellant would be entitled to compensation. The part of the section which is relevant is as follows:

"9(1) Where a person has been convicted of an offence and either -"

16

(a)(i) his conviction has been quashed by the Court on an application under section 2 or on appeal, or he has been acquitted in any retrial, and

17

(ii) the Court or the Court of retrial, as the case may be, has certified that a newly discovered fact shows that there has been a miscarriage of justice,

18

or

19

(b) (not relevant)

20

The Minister shall, subject to subsections (2) and (3), pay compensation to the convicted person or, if he is dead, to his legal personal representatives unless the non-disclosure of the fact in time is wholly or partly attributable to the convictedperson."

21

A central issue on this appeal is how this provision should be construed, in particular, whether the admitted newly discovered fact shows that there has been a "miscarriage ofjustice".

22

3. The grounds on which the Court of Criminal Appeal refused the certificate.

23

These grounds are to be found in the last 21/2 pages of the Court's judgment of the 28th July 1995 which it is necessary to cite almost infull.

"It is clear that the pertinent legislation envisages that it is not every case where a conviction is quashed that a certificate should issue from this Court...

Where it is established that the applicant was innocent of any involvement in the crime alleged that would provide ample justification for the granting of a certificate. Further, for example, if in a given case the Court were to reach the conclusion that a conviction had resulted in a case where a prosecution should never have been brought in the sense that there was no credible evidence implicating the applicant, that would be a case where a certificate most likely shouldissue.

To say that there are cases where the conviction should be quashed (as here) but, notwithstanding that, to refuse to issue a certificate is not to encroach on the place of the presumption of innocence in our criminal code. The presumption is, of course, fundamental to a trial in course of law. But the inquiry we make under the Act is different: we have to find positively that amiscarriage of justice occurred in a given case. That the accused was improperly found guilty in the sense that that finding should not, in the circumstances as ultimately found, have been open to the Court oftrial.

Our findings, as set out in the judgment, do not go that far. In the course of our judgment we held that the matter of the credibility of Detective Sergeant Connolly is something that might have raised a reasonable doubt in the mind of the Special Criminal Court resulting in a rejection of the disputed statement by the Court. We went on to hold that in the circumstances the conviction of the applicant was unsafe and unsatisfactory but found that on the evidence presented to the trial court and the Court of Criminal Appeal (at the original hearing) both courts were correct and the only basis for reaching the conclusion that the conviction was unsafe and unsatisfactory was the consideration of the newly discovered fact to which reference was made in thejudgment.

In our present judgment this finding, together with the fact that we ordered a retrial, is insufficient for us to be able to make a positivefinding that a miscarriage of justice occurred in the circumstances of Mr. Pringle's case."

24

I agree with the reasoning on the basis of which the Court of Criminal Appeal reached its decision. The Court did not attempt an exhaustive definition of the term "miscarriage of justice" and in my view this Court should not attempt such a definition...

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