People (Attorney General) v Byrne

CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
Judgment Date01 January 1976
Docket Number[No. 45 of 1973]
Date01 January 1976

Court of Criminal Appeal

[No. 45 of 1973]
The People (Attorney General) v. Byrne

Criminal law - Trial - Judge's charge to jury - Jury to be satisfied of guilt beyond reasonable doubt - Witnesses - Duty of prosecution.

Criminal Appeal.

Douglas Byrne, Christopher McGregor and Michael Callaghan were tried on indictment in the Central Criminal Court on the 4th and 5th July, 1973, before Murnaghan J. and a jury. On the 5th July each of them was found guilty on count 2 of having inflicted grievous bodily harm contrary to s. 20 of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861. On the 6th July Douglas Byrne and Michael Callaghan were sentenced to two years imprisonment with hard labour, and Christopher McGregor was sentenced to four years penal servitude. They applied to the Court of Criminal Appeal for leave to appeal against their convictions. The applications were allowed, and the hearing of the applications was treated as the hearing of the appeals.

In charging the jury at a criminal trial, the judge must inform them that to support a conviction they have to be satisfied of the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt; it is helpful if the judge contrasts that degree of proof with the standard applicable in a civil action. It is also essential that the jury should be told that the accused is entitled to the benefit of any doubt and that where two views on a matter are justified they should adopt the view which is favourable to the accused unless the prosecution has established the conflicting view beyond reasonable doubt.

So held by the Court of Criminal Appeal (FitzGerald C.J., Kenny and Butler JJ.).

Kenny J. :—

The three accused were tried in the Central Criminal Court before Mr. Justice Murnaghan and a jury on two counts. The first was that on the 16th August, 1970, they caused grievous bodily harm to Patrick Rhattigan with intent to do him that kind of harm; the second was that they maliciously inflicted grievous bodily harm on Patrick Rhattigan. At the end of the case for the prosecution the judge directed the jury to acquit them on the first count. They were convicted on the second. An application for a certificate for leave to appeal was refused by the trial judge and they have now applied for leave to appeal. At the end of the argument, this Court indicated that the appeal would be allowed, a new trial ordered and that it would state its reasons at a later date. The case raises the question as to the form of charge which should be given by a judge to the jury in relation to the onus of proof in criminal cases and so is of considerable importance.

The facts on which the prosecution relied were that on the 16th August Mr. Patrick Rhattigan was in a flat occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Howard and that the three accused armed with knives broke into the flat. Mr. Rhattigan was so frightened that he jumped from the balcony of the flat to the ground underneath, a distance of 32' 6'', and he suffered severe injuries.

The principal ground of appeal related to the way in which the trial judge stated the onus of proof to the jury. His words were:— "My function, gentlemen, is to tell you what the law is and then to endeavour to assist you to consider the evidence; and you have to consider that to see whether the State has proved their case to your satisfaction — to the satisfaction of each one of you. The duty on the State is to prove the guilt and the law is that there is a presumption of innocence on every person who stands accused of crime: he is innocent until proved guilty. He remains innocent until a jury such as you is satisfied by evidence of his guilt. Bear that in mind, gentlemen, during the whole of your deliberations. The presumption of innocence can be rebutted by evidence sufficient to satisfy a jury of guilt, and there must be that sort of evidence in this case." In a later part of his charge the judge said:—"The law works on the basis that the State produce the evidence that they say is sufficient to satisfy a jury, such as you, of the guilt of the person they charge; and then it is for you to say whether the State has gone that far — has proved it to your satisfaction, to the satisfaction of each and every one of you because you must be unanimous in any verdict you come to, whether guilty or innocent. Now, when I say satisfied, that is the way I like to put it: other judges sometimes say 'beyond a reasonable doubt' — I do not mind that being said. Counsel, I think, properly did say that to you. It means the same thing when you think about it, because if you have a reasonable doubt you cannot be satisfied."

The judge thus told the jury that they had to be satisfied of the guilt of the accused, and he equated "satisfied" with"beyond a reasonable doubt." He did not tell the jury that the accused were entitled to the benefit of the doubt. The only case cited to us was R. v. HepworthELR6 in which the Court of Criminal Appeal in England held that it was not sufficient for a judge to...

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46 cases
  • DPP v Hannaway, Shannon, Hannaway, Nooney, O'Brien
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 6 February 2020
    ...reject that notion. In doing so we acknowledge and accept the “two views” rule, set forth in the seminal case of People (A.G.) v Byrne [1974] IR 1, which is to the effect that where two views on any part of the case are possible on the evidence, the tribunal of fact should adopt that which......
  • DPP v Byrne
    • Ireland
    • Court of Criminal Appeal
    • Invalid date
  • DPP v Fergal Cagney
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 27 July 2009
    ...discussed in the Court of Criminal Appeal (the judgment is that of Kenny J.) in The People (Attorney General) v. Douglas Byrne [1974] IR 1. The Court followed the High Court of Australia arriving at the following formulation, on p.9: "The correct charge to a jury is that they must be satisf......
  • DPP v Reid
    • Ireland
    • Court of Criminal Appeal
    • 12 February 2004
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Chaos of Reasonable Doubt
    • Ireland
    • Trinity College Law Review Nbr. XVII-2014, January 2014
    • 1 January 2014
    ...mind, bent on the detection of some point, however attenuated, upon which to hang a criticism. 30 26 People (Attorney General) v Byrne [1974] IR 1. 27 R v Law [1961] Crim LR 52. 28 R v Head (1961) 45 Cr App R 225. Note how the reasonable surety rejected here is the direct opposite of reason......

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