People (Attorney General) v Sherlock & Collins


1965 WJSC-CCA 482


Walsh J., Murnaghan J., Gannon J.


JUDGMENT 3 February 1975, Walsh J.

Walsh J

On June 24th, 1974, the two applicants, William Collins and John Sherlock, were convicted after a trial in the Central Criminal Court of the murder of one Kevin Clifford. The murder took place on February 4th, 1974, in the city of Dublin. The trial judge was Mr. Justice Butler.


Following the jury's verdict the learned judge imposed the statutory sentences of penal servitude for life on each of the applicants. On application being made on behalf of each of the applicants to the trial judge for a certificate for leave to appeal the learned trial judge refused both applications. Counsel for William Collins limited himself to one ground to support his application, namely that the written statements made by Collins


which had been admitted by the trial judge ought not to have been admitted in evidence. Counsel for Sherlock applied for the certificate on two grounds. The first of these was that the learned trial judge should have withdrawn the case form the jury at the conclusion of the prosecution's evidence. The basis of this was the claim that the statement of the co-accused, William Collins, which had been admitted in evidence and allowed to go to the jury was, despite the warnings given by the judge, so prejudicial to the applicant, Sherlock, that it ought to have been excluded. The second ground to support the application offered on behalf of Sherlock was that the learned trial judge in directing the jury told them that Sherlock had in effect admitted an assault upon the deceased on three different occasions when talking to two members of the Garda Siochana and it was submitted that the words which he used were capable of an interpretation other than an admission of an assault.


In the application brought before this Court for leave to appeal the grounds referred to have been elaborated by each of the applicants but essentially deal with the same matters as were raised by counsel before the trial judge in their application for leave to appeal.


Kevin Clifford, whose death was the subject matter of the change of murder against the applicants received very severe personal injuries on the 29th November, 1973, from which he died on the 4th February, 1974. Apparently the cause of his death was pneumonia but that was secondary to the severe personal injuries which he received. He had been unconscious from the 29th November until the 4th February and the pneumonia was secondary to this prolonged unconsciousness which itself was due to serve brain injury. The deceased had resided at 28/29 Summerhill in the city of Dublin. At approximately 11 o'clock in the evening of the 29th November Kevin Clifford was found lying in the hallway of No. 28 Summerhill covered with blood mainly around his face had head. A couple of broken beer bottles were found lying near his feet. He was found lying on his back. There was also blood around the hallway in which be was found and a pool of it near his head. He was removed by amulance to the casualty department of St. Laurence's Hospital where he was admitted at about 11. 20 or 11.25 p.m. and was examined by the doctor on internal casualty duty. From a superficial examination he was found to be unconscious, bleeding profusely from the face and scalp and had wounds on both wrists. The medical evidence described him as then being deeply unconscious and having an unco-ordinated response to pain. Neurological examination revealed a 6 criminal nerve palsy with no reactive pulse. On X-ray he was found to have multiple fractures of the skull and was put into the intensive care unit. He remained unconscious until the date of his death. The medical evidence indicated that he had been very severely beaten around the face and head. The neuro surgeon found it difficult to give the number of fractures he had sustained in this region because he said it was a series of fractures of all the parts that suspend the face from the base of the skill. He said that one blow could have caused these injuries if it was severe enough. The evidence is such, having regard to the large number of cuts which were at the front and the back of the head, that the jury might properly conclude that there was more than one blow struck. The medical evidence was also such that there could not be any doubt but that the deceased died as a result of the injuries he had sustained.


The evidence also disclosed that Mr. Clifford's flat had been broken into and some articles were stolen from it at about the time of the assault upon him which led to his death.


At about midnight on the 29th November members of the Garda Siochana went to No. 28 Summerhill and entered a flat belonging to one Edward Sherlock. In that flat they saw the two accused. The accused William Collins when first observed was standing up and was dressed in a shirt and a trousers. He had not any shoes but he was wearing socks. The accused John Sherlock was sitting or half lying on an armchair in the corner. Collins was asked if he would accompany the Civic Guards to Fitzgibbon Street Garda Station which he agreed to do and when he was brought there members of the Garda Siochana took possession of his trousers and searched the pockets of them. In the pockets they found a watch and a medal which were identified by other witnesses as being the property of the deceased. On that occasion, on being asked to account for them, Collins said he had never seen them before, they were not his, and denied that they could have been found in his pocket. The evidence also indicated that the medal and watch had been taken from the flat of the deceased in the break-in. He was given the usual legal caution and in reply to the caution denied that he knew anything about the watch or medal. He said he had spent the evening in the flat of Edward Sherlock which was the apartment in which he had been first seen by the Guards and stated that neither he nor Sherlock had left that flat all night. It was observed that he had what appeared to be fresh blood on one of his arms around the region of the elbow and also around the region of his right knee. His explanation for these was that he had been hit by Sherlock and that his nose had bled. He was asked to remove his socks and it was then observed that there were three spots of blood on his right foot. He said he did not know how they got there. When told that Sherlock had said that he had left the flat for about three-quarters of an hour he replied that Sherlock was "a liar" and he said that he had never left the flat, that they had been together all night. He also said that he did not know who had been living in the flat opposite and that he never saw him. The person in question was Clifford. Collins Subsequently made a statement in writing after a caution and that statement was admitted in evidence by the learned trial judge. The statement was completely exculpatory. It denied any knowledge of how the watch and modal got into his pocket and stated that he did not know how the spots of blood got onto his right foot or onto his left elbow or into his right knee. He did relate that at about 5 p.m. on the evening of the 29th November Sherlock had hit him on the nose with his fist and that his nose had started to bleed. He stated that some of the blood went on to his trousers. He stated that he had not been out of the flat since 8 o'clock. He subsequently made another statement, a very short one, in which he said he had never been in Clifford's flat, that he had not known who lived there and identified certain items of clothing as being his own and that they had all been in his flat when he left it with the Garda Siochana on the night he was taken to Fitzgibbon Street Station. He also said that nobody else were any of his clothes. He subsequently, on the 30th November, 1973, made a further statement which was admitted by the learned trial judge in evidence. That statement described breaking into Clifford's flat and taking the watch and medal which had been found in his pocket. He then described emerging from that flat and meeting what he described as another fellow in the hallway and informing him that he was after breaking into the flat in question. According to the statement the other person said that they should do its again and they obtained admission to the flat by getting in through windows. They heard a key being turned in the lock of the entrance door of the flat and they left the flat again the window. They went on to the landing and they saws a man from whom they asked a cigarette. He said that he had none. They replied that they had seen...

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