People (Attorney General) v Keating

CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
Judgment Date01 January 1953
Date01 January 1953
The People (Attorney General) v. Keating
THE PEOPLE (at the suit of the AttorneyGeneral)

Court of Criminal Appeal

Criminal law - Practice - Competency of witness - Charge of having unlawful carnal knowledge of feeble-minded person - Whether witness competent in view of mental condition - Test of competency administered - Trial Judge satisfied as to competency - Subsequent trial of another accused person at same sittings of Court on similar charge - Test of competency again necessary - Necessity that tests should be administered in presence of accused and of jury sworn to try his case.

The appellant was convicted in the Circuit Court under s. 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935, of having unlawful carnal knowledge of a feebleminded girl. On the hearing, two days previously, of a similar charge, in the same Court, of another accused person, questions had been administered to the girl with a view to testing her competency, in view of her mental condition, and the trial Judge had been satisfied that she was fit to give evidence. On the trial of the appellant the trial Judge stated that he was". . . aware of her mentality" and had "already ruled that she is competent having regard to her condition, to give evidence." He thereupon allowed her to be sworn. On appeal it was

Held by the Court of Criminal Appeal that the conviction should be set aside on the ground that an examination as to competency on the voire diremust take place in the presence of an accused and of the jury sworn to try his case. The fact that the trial Judge had made the same investigation in another case did not dispense with this necessity.

Criminal Appeal.

The appellant, John Keating, was convicted in the Circuit Court in Wexford on a charge of having unlawful carnal knowledge of Kathleen Jackman, a feeble-minded person, contrary to s. 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1935, and was sentenced to one year's imprisonment with hard labour. At the trial, on Kathleen Jackman, who was aged 24 years, being called as a witness for the prosecution, counsel for the appellant submitted that, in view of the allegation of feeble-mindedness, the girl should not be sworn. The trial Judge ruled that, having tested her competency on the trial of another accused person two days previously and having on that occasion ruled that she was competent to give evidence, he would allow her to be sworn.

The appellant appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal.


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