People (Attorney General) v Singer

Judgment Date23 June 1961
Date23 June 1961
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
The People (A.G.) v. Singer
The People (A.G.)

Paul Singer was tried in the Central Criminal Court before Haugh J. and a jury on an indictment containing 21 counts. Each of counts 1-3 contained a charge of conspiracy; counts 4-19 each contained a charge of fraudulent conversion; and counts 20 and 21 each contained a charge of obtaining money by false pretences. On the 21st November, 1960, the accused was found not guilty on counts 1 and 2 by direction of the trial judge, but he was found guilty by the jury on the remaining counts. On the 28th November, 1960, the accused was sentenced by the trial judge to a total of 14 years penal servitude. The trial judge refused to grant the accused leave to appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, and the accused then applied to that court for such leave pursuant to s. 31 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924. The accused was not represented at the hearing of his application which took place during the months of April and May, 1961. At the conclusion of the hearing of the accused's application, the Court of Criminal Appeal ( Ó Dálaigh ó dálaigh, Murnaghan and Walsh JJ.) reserved its judgment. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal was delivered by Ó Dálaigh ó dálaigh J. on the 23rd June, 1961, and part of that judgment is printed infra. In addition to the reason given in the excerpt from that judgment printed infra, the court held that the trial of the accused had been unsatisfactory for other reasons. The court granted the accused leave to appeal, treated the hearing of the application for leave to appeal as the hearing of the appeal. allowed the appeal, and directed a retrial on counts 5 and 12-19. The court refused to grant the accused leave to appeal to the Supreme Court pursuant to s. 29 of the Act of 1924.

The activities of Shanahan's Stamp Auctions Ltd. were a prominent feature of the trial of the accused. That company was incorporated on the 12th October, 1954, and its original shareholders and directors were the accused and his wife and Jerome Shanahan and his son. On the 23rd May, 1959, the High Court ordered that the company be wound up. The company had conducted a substantial business trading in valuable postage stamps. The company bought stamps and sold them by auction. The funds for the purchase of stamps were obtained by invitation from members of the public. People who supplied the company with a sum of money for the purchase of stamps were entitled to have that sum repaid, with profits in certain circumstances. The persons who supplied such money did not acquire any part of the company's share capital but, for the sake of convenience at the hearing of the application, they were referred to as "investors" who had made "investments."

Ó Dálaigh ó dálaigh J.

". . . The applicant's third ground of appeal is that the trial was not fair and impartial because, as the applicant puts it in his application for leave to appeal, "the foreman was involved in this case." At the commencement of the application in this Court, the applicant applied to the Court to receive an affidavit tendered by him to establish facts in support of this ground. Counsel for the Attorney General objected to the reception of the affidavit on the ground that it was not relevant and, in any event, that if evidence were to be received it should be given orally. Later, counsel for the Attorney General informed the Court that he was prepared to admit the following four facts about the foreman of the jury:—

  • (i) he was a chartered accountant,

  • (ii) in the employment of Messrs. Craig Gardner and Co. and

  • (iii) was an investor in Shanahan's Stamp Auctions Ltd. and

  • (iv) a claimant against the company in the liquidation in respect of his investment.

In view of these admissions the applicant informed the Court that he withdrew his application to the Court to receive his affidavit.

It was established by the evidence given at the trial that the liquidator of Shanahan's Stamp Auctions Ltd. was Mr. Gerald W. O'Brien, one of the senior partners in the firm of Craig Gardner and Co., and Mr. O'Brien gave evidence at the trial. Moreover, count 4 of the indictment upon which the applicant was tried and convicted was what, for short, may be called a general deficiency count. It charged the applicant with the fraudulent conversion of the sum of £796,514 6s. 2d. to the use and benefit of Shanahan's Stamp Auctions Ltd. being the amount to which, as alleged, it appeared the company was indebted to investors at the date of the liquidation. The foreman of the jury was one of these investors.

The applicant's submission in support of this ground of appeal is that no man—no jury man—can be a judge in his own cause. On a criminal trial, the applicant says, the rights and duties of three parties are concerned —the Attorney General whose duty it is to prosecute; the accused who has a right, as he put it, to "a fair chance"; and the court which has the duty to provide the accused with a fair tribunal. The applicant informed the Court that he had not found any reported case in which the victim of the offence alleged to have been committed had sat upon the jury, but he called the...

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