Nash v DPP

JudgeMr. Justice Hardiman,Mr. Justice Clarke,Mr Justice Charleton
Judgment Date29 January 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] IESC 32
CourtSupreme Court
Docket Number[Appeal No: 22/2013 & 24/2013]
Date29 January 2015
Mark Nash
The Director of Public Prosecutions

[2015] IESC 32

Denham C.J.

Hardiman J.

O'Donnell J.

Clarke J.

Charleton J.

[Appeal No: 22/2013 & 24/2013]


Crime & sentencing – Murder – Trial – Application to prohibit – Appeal from refusal of High Court to prohibit trial

Facts: The appellant was alleged to have committed high profile murders of two women. Due to an alternative suspect (now deceased) and the appellant both making independent confessions, a decision was taken to not bring the matter to trial. New evidence emerged, and the decision was made to charge the appellant. He had applied to the High Court to prohibit his trial, but this application was refused. He now appealed to the Supreme Court.

Held by Justice Clarke, (Justices Hardiman, O'Donnell and Charleton also giving judgments), that the appeal would be dismissed. Having considered the earlier case law on lapse of time, that the existence of a breach of a constitutional right to a timely trial alone did not mean there could be no trial. The constitution required that civil and criminal matters were to be brought to trial to be determined on the merits. For this not to happen, a serious factor would have to exist which would outweigh the imperative for a trial. In the instant case, Clarke J was not convinced such a factor existed and suggested the trial judge would be best placed to assess the evidence.

JUDGMENT of Mr. Justice Hardiman delivered the 29 th day of January, 2015.

On the 8 th of December, 2014, the Court heard this appeal. The Court stated that it would give its decision shortly but reserve the reasons till a later date.

On the 10 th December the Court later dismissed the appeal, thereby allowing Mr. Nash's trial to proceed. I now set out the reasons for my concurrence in that decision.

Factual background.

On the 6 th March 1997, Sylvia Sheils and Mary Callinan were unlawfully killed in sheltered accommodation, ‘Orchard View’, at Grangegorman Psychiatric Hospital, Dublin. They were brutally slain, Post mortem examination showed that they had each received multiple stab wounds and, additionally, their bodies had been gratuitously mutilated.


Thirteen and a half years later, on the 10 th October, 2009, the present appellant, Mark Nash was charged with the murder of these ladies by direction of the respondent, the D.P.P.


Mark Nash claims that by reason of delay, death or unavailability of witnesses, and certain other matters, there is now a real risk of an unfair trial if the present case against him proceeds. This claim was resolved against him in the High Court (Moriarty J.) and he now appeals.

Another person charged.

This case is a most unusual one. Most of its peculiarities arise from a single factor. Seventeen years ago, on the 27 th July, 1997, an entirely different person, Dean Lyons, was charged with the murder of Mary Callinan. Subsequently, directions were given to charge him with the murder of Sylvia Sheils as well. He was so charged largely on the basis of his own confession to killing the two ladies. This confession was volunteered by him to the gardaí and subsequently repeated to numerous other persons. His first confession to the gardaí was video taped but two subsequent confessions, which were more detailed, were not video taped but were recorded in handwriting by gardaí. I do not at all understand why the second and third confessions of Mr. Lyons were not video taped.


Dean Lyons was twenty-four years of age in 1997. He had a history of taking heroin for some years and at the time he confessed to the murders of Ms. Sheils and Ms. Callinan, he was sleeping rough.


On the 26 th July, 1997, Mr. Lyons had voluntarily attended the Bridewell Garda Station in Dublin. While there he was interviewed for a total of six hours and thirty-five minutes over four interviews conducted by three different teams of gardaí, each team comprising two members. While Mr. Lyons was present in the garda station he was arrested pursuant to s.4 of the Criminal Justice Act of 1984. During the first, video recorded interview, Mr. Lyons freely admitted his involvement in the two murders. He engaged, apparently quite openly, with his interviewers and did not display signs of drug withdrawal or physical pain or discomfort. In a second interview he confessed to these murders in somewhat greater detail. In a third interview conducted between 10.10pm and midnight on the 26 th July he signed a statement of admission which contained a great deal of detail relating to the nature of the wounds inflicted, the number and type of weapons used and the progress of the murderer through the house.


Dean Lyons was charged on the day after these interviews by direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions. This direction was given after a conversation between Detective Superintendent Cormac Gordon and an official of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mr. Nash becomes a suspect.

Within a few weeks, on the 16 th August, 1997, a second and entirely new suspect for the Grangegorman murders, the present applicant, emerged. He had been arrested in relation to separate serious offences in the West of Ireland and he volunteered a confession to the Grangegorman murders.


The gardaí who had been involved in the earlier investigation of these murders (that based in the Bridewell, Dublin) were convinced of the correctness of their evidence and were therefore very sceptical of the significance of the new, alternative suspect. A report was therefore submitted to Garda Headquarters which emphasised the strengths of the case against Mr. Lyons and which identified matters of detail in his admissions which corresponded to the known facts. The facts were known only to the killer and the authorities.

On the 27 th August, 1997, the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána appointed a very senior officer, an Assistant Commissioner, to conduct an analysis of the various conflicting admissions and seek to establish where the truth lay. This officer, and the team assembled to assist him, conducted a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the various admissions. It is notable that this analysis of the admissions made by Mr. Lyons took place only after the second suspect, Mark Nash, had emerged as such.


On the 10 th October, 1997, the garda file in relation to the Grangegorman murders was submitted by the Bridewell investigation team to the office of the Chief State Solicitor. It is the normal procedure that such a file is submitted either before or after directions had been given by the Director of Public Prosecutions in a serious case.

This report concluded with the recommendation that the existing charge of murder should proceed against Dean Lyons and that an additional charge be laid against Lyons in respect of Sylvia Sheils.

Change of front.

About three months later, in January 1998 the Assistant Commissioner's team submitted a further report making it clear that the authors believed now that, quite contrary to their previous position, Dean Lyons had had no involvement in the Grangegorman murders at all.

This in turn led to the withdrawal of the allegation of murder against Dean Lyons.

Other admissions by Dean Lyons.

It transpires that, over and above the formal admissions to the investigating gardaí, Mr. Lyons confessed to the Grangegorman murders to various people, including a uniformed Sergeant engaged in routine duties in the Bridewell Garda Station, to each of his parents separately and to others. He persisted in these admissions even when challenged by his parents. In all, he continued to claim responsibility for the murders for several weeks to family members, fellow prisoners, prison officers, medical personnel and his own legal team.


The second and third interviews, which featured confessions by Dean Lyons, were conducted by a Detective Sergeant Robert McNulty and a Detective Garda Robert Cox. The latter, who was the junior interviewer at the interviews which were not video recorded, had misgivings about the degree to which reliance could be placed on what Dean Lyons was saying. He referred to Lyons as a ‘Walter Mitty’. His colleague, the senior interviewer, did not share these reservations. Detective Garda Cox, however, expressed his reservations twice on the 26 th January to other members of the investigation team. They were not recognised or acted upon by those present including the officers leading the inquiry.


In 2006, nine years after the Grangegorman murders, Mr. George Birmingham S.C. (now a Judge of the Court of Appeal) was appointed as the sole member of a Committee of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case. He found that ‘the decision to consult the D.P.P. and recommend a charge was extremely unfortunate’, but that (despite this) ‘it was at the time a proper and conscientious one’. He also found that the recommendation of the review team under the Assistant Commissioner that the charge against Mr. Lyons should proceed ‘is extremely difficult to understand and even harder to justify’. He raised the possibility that interviewing gardaí had accidentally or unintentionally supplied the impressive detail in Dean Lyon's confessions, and corrected factual errors made by Mr. Lyons. I do not know if the gardaí admit this or not.

I express no views whatever on these topics but this judgment proceeds on the basis that all necessary and proper disclosure about these events and the various contradictions in them will be made to Mr. Nash's advisors, if requested.


On the 12 th September, 2000, Dean Lyons died in England having been released from Strangeways Prison on the previous day. This, of course, was a tragedy for Mr. Lyons and his family. It was also a serious setback for the prospects of a prosecution...

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