People (Attorney General) v Messitt

CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
Judgment Date01 January 1972
Docket Number[No. 19 of 1970]
Date01 January 1972

Court of Criminal Appeal

[No. 19 of 1970]
The People (Attorney General) v. Messitt

Criminal Law - Trial - Disorderly conduct of defendant - Defendant removed from court - Evidence for prosecution given in absence of defendant - Possibility of insanity - Duty of prosecution - Whether trial satisfactory.

Criminal Appeal.

The defendant was arraigned on a bill of indictment containing 10 counts in the Central Criminal Court before a judge and jury. The first count was one of attempt to murder, counts 2-4 charged the defendant with wounding with intent to murder contrary to s. 11 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861; counts 5-7 charged him with wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm contrary to s. 18 of the Act of 1861; and counts 8-10 charged him with malicious wounding contrary to s. 20 of the Act of 1861. The defendant pleaded not guilty to all the counts and he was put in charge of the jury on counts 2-7. The jury found the defendant not guilty on counts 2-4 but guilty on counts 5-7. On the 27th February, 1970, the defendant was sentenced to 15 years penal servitude on count 5, and to 12 years penal servitude on each of counts 6 and 7—the sentences to run concurrently. The trial of the offences charged in counts 1, and 8-10 was adjourned. The defendant applied to the Court of Criminal Appeal for leave to appeal against his conviction and against his sentence.

The Court granted the application for leave to appeal, allowed the appeal and ordered a retrial. On the 12th March, 1971, the Court issued its warrant, in execution of its order, directing that the defendant be delivered into the custody of the Governor of Mountjoy Prison and kept in safe custody as a prisoner awaiting trial, pending the defendant's retrial.

In the course of his trial on indictment in the Central Criminal Court on counts of wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm, the defendant dismissed his legal advisers and then conducted himself in such a disorderly manner that the trial judge ordered that the defendant be removed from the court. Evidence for the prosecution was adduced in the absence of the defendant. A doctor, in the absence of the jury, stated in evidence that he considered the defendant to be a psychopath but that he was fit to plead. The defendant stated that he was feeling ill. In the course of considering their verdict, the jury returned to court and asked the trial judge if they could refer in their decision to the mental state of the defendant at the time of the crimes; the trial judge informed them that there was no evidence on that point to displace the presumption of sanity, but that they could add a rider to their verdict. The jury found the defendant guilty and added a rider stating that in their opinion at the date of the crimes the balance of the defendant's mind was disturbed. The defendant was sentenced to a term of penal servitude and he then applied for leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Held by the Court of Criminal Appeal (McLoughlin, Kenny and Henchy JJ.), in granting leave to appeal and ordering a retrial, 1, that the trial had been unsatisfactory because the circumstances had been such that evidence should not have been adduced in the absence of the defendant without giving him an opportunity to adduce medical evidence to support his claim that he was unable to conduct his defence, and without testimony that the defendant's violent conduct was not caused by mental illness.

2. That the trial had also been unsatisfactory because there had been available some medical evidence of the defendant's mental condition which had not been given before the jury and which, in the absence of legal advisers for the defendant, should have been adduced by the prosecution for the purpose of enabling the jury to consider whether they should return a verdict of guilty but insane.

Cur. adv. vult.

The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal was delivered by Mr. Justice Kenny.

Kenny J. :—

The accused, Patrick Messitt, was tried in the Central Criminal Court before Mr. Justice Murnaghan and a jury on charges that on the 20th September, 1969, he wounded a girl, her brother and their mother with intent

to murder. He was also charged with wounding each of them with intent to do grievous bodily harm. When the trial began, he was represented by senior and junior counsel.

It is necessary to describe the course of the trial in detail because some of the evidence against the accused was given in his absence and when his counsel had withdrawn from the case with the permission of the trial judge. The evidence given on the first day established that the accused was the father of a child to which the girl had given birth on the 17th August, 1969, and that on the 27th August she had returned to her home where she lived with her father. It was also proved that she had been to England earlier in that year, that she had met the accused there and that they had subsequently returned to Ireland. The accused and she were anxious to get married but her parents were so strongly opposed to this that she subsequently decided that she would not do so. The accused apparently decided to go away to sea and on the 17th September he called to her house to say good-bye to her. She did not wish to see him but, at her father's insistence, came to the hallway to see...

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  • Re the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill, 1975
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    ......The Attorney General 1972 I.R. 36 ). . . 4 Section 2 of the Bill provides ... both Houses of the Oireachtas, the elected representatives of the people, the Court accepts the principles laid down by the former Supreme Court in ......
  • Byrne v Judge James O'Donohoe
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    • 9 December 2016
    ...applies to all stages of the criminal process, including sentence. In this regard counsel cited People (Attorney General) v. Messitt [1972] I.R. 204; Nevin v. Crowley [1999] 1 I.L.R.M. 376; The State (Healy) v. Donoghue [1976] I.R. 325; and Brennan v. Windle [2003] 3 I.R. 494. Furthermo......
  • Walsh v Minister for Justice and Equality
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    ...can be determined: see The People (Attorney General) v. Saunders & Jasinski (1962) 1 Frewen 283, The People (Attorney General) v. Messit [1972] I.R. 204, the judgment of the High Court (Murphy J.) in Lawlor v. District Judge Hogan [1993] I.L.R.M. 606 at p. 609, and the judgment of Charlet......
  • DPP v Redmond
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    • 6 April 2006 pleading relevant -Whether abuse of process to accept guilty plea - People (DPP) v O'Mahony [1985] IR517, People (AG) v Messitt [1972] IR 204, AG v O'Brien [1936] IR 263 and Bratty v AG for Northern Ireland [1963] AC 386 considered - Held that trial judge must accept plea (160/2004 - SC......
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