People (Attorney General) v Messitt

JurisdictionIreland
Judgment Date04 December 1974
Date04 December 1974
Docket Number[S.C. No. 15 of 1970]
CourtSupreme Court
The People (Attorney General) v. Messitt
THE PEOPLE (at the Suit of THE ATTORNEY GENERAL)
and
PATRICK MESSITT
[S.C. No. 15 of 1970]

Supreme Court

Criminal law - Offence - To wound - Whether entire skin must be severed - Grievous bodily harm - "Grievous"equivalent to "serious" - Offence against the Person Act,1861 (24 & 25 Vict., c. 100), ss. 18, 20.

A wound, for the purposes of ss. 18 and 20 of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861, must include a severance of the entire skin.

To constitute a maiming, disfiguring or disabling or other grievous bodily harm within the meaning of s. 18 of the Act of 1861, the injury must be a serious one though not necessarily a permanent one.

So held by the Supreme Court ( Ó Dálaigh ó dálaigh C.J., Walsh and FitzGerald JJ.).

Criminal Appeal.

On the 16th October, 1969, the appellant, Patrick Messitt, was tried in the Circuit Court on an indictment containing two counts. The first count charged him with having on the 12th October, 1967, in the County of Dublin wounded Anthony Cullen in the face with intent to do him grievous bodily harm or to maim, disfigure or disable him contrary to s. 18 of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861. The second count charged him with having on that occasion maliciously wounded Anthony Cullen in the face contrary to s. 20 of the Act of 1861. The jury found the appellant guilty on count 1 and the appellant was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment with hard labour. Anolle prosequi was entered in respect of count 2 but was withdrawn when the appellant applied for a certificate for leave to appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal; the trial judge refused to grant the certificate. An application by the appellant to the Court of Criminal Appeal for leave to appeal against his conviction was refused by that court (McLoughlin, Teevan and Henchy JJ.) on the 17th December, 1969. However, the Attorney General issued a certificate pursuant to s. 29 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924, and the appellant appealed to the Supreme Court pursuant to that section.

The certificate of the Attorney General was as follows:—

"I hereby certify, pursuant to section 29 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924, that the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal delivered in the above matter on the 17th day of December, 1969, involves points of law of exceptional public importance, viz.

  • 1. Whether or not the injury alleged to have been intended by a person charged under section 18 of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861, i.e. to maim, disfigure or disable or to do some other grievous bodily harm, must be of a grave and permanent nature.

  • 2. Whether or not a wound, for the purposes of either section 18 or section 20 of the Offences against the Person Act, 1861, must be of such a nature as to involve a severance or penetration of the entire skin.

And I hereby further certify that it is desirable in the public interest that an appeal should be taken to the Supreme Court.

Dated this 13th day of February, 1970.

Colm Condon

Attorney General."

Cur. adv. vult.

ÓDalaigh ó dalaigh C.J.:—

On the 16th October, 1969, the appellant was convicted in the Dublin Circuit Court of having, on the 12th October, 1967, wounded Anthony Cullen in the face, with intent to do him grievous bodily harm or to maim, disfigure or disable him contrary to s. 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861. The appellant was thereupon sentenced by the presiding judge to 18 months imprisonment with hard labour. It should be noted that the appellant was also tried on a second count, viz.maliciously wounding contrary to s. 20 of the Act of 1861. The trial judge explained to the jury that this count was an alternative count. When the jury brought in a verdict of guilty on the first count, counsel for the Attorney General entered a nolle prosequi on the second count, but he withdrew it when counsel for the appellant applied for a certificate for leave to appeal against conviction and sentence. A certificate was refused.

The appellant thereupon applied to the Court of Criminal Appeal for leave to appeal and that court rejected the application by an order dated the 17th December, 1969. Now he has appealed to this Court pursuant to a certificate of the Attorney General granted under s. 29 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. The appellant has also based his appeal to this Court upon the grounds of appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, as extended by amendment.

In this Court the appeal has been chiefly concerned with the second of the two questions certified by the Attorney General and, therefore, I propose to turn now to a consideration of that question. The terms of the two sections of the Act of 1861 mentioned in the Attorney General's certificate are as follows:—

"18.—Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously by any means whatsoever wound or cause any grievous bodily harm to any person, or shoot at any person, or, by drawing a trigger or in any other manner, attempt to discharge any kind of loaded arms at any person, with intent, in any of the cases aforesaid, to maim, disfigure, or disable any person, or to do some other grievous bodily harm to any person, or with intent to resist or prevent the lawful apprehension or detainer of any person, shall be guilty of felony, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be kept in penal servitude for life or to be imprisoned with or without solitary confinement."

"20.—Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously...

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2 cases
  • Minister for Justice and Equality v Lipatovs
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 4 March 2019
    ... ... It is not the Court's function to elaborate a general theory in this area (see, mutatis mutandis, the Deweer judgment of 27 ... referred to in People (Attorney General) v. Messitt [1974] IR 406 when quoting with approval ... ...
  • DPP v Keith Kirwan
    • Ireland
    • Court of Criminal Appeal
    • 28 October 2005
    ...any major new departure in the understanding of what constitutes serious harm or grievous bodily harm. In The People (A.G.) v. Messitt [1974] I.R. 406, O'Dhálaigh C.J., who delivered the judgment of the Supreme Court, had to consider whether or not an injury alleged to have been intended by......

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