People (Attorney General) v Keating

CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
Judgment Date01 January 1954
Date01 January 1954
The People (Attorney General) v. Keatley
THE PEOPLE (at the suit of the Attorney General)

Court of Criminal Appeal.

Criminal law - Manslaughter - Self-defence - Defence of others - Death resulting from blow struck in defence of brother of accused - Scope of principle of self-defence - Defence of others as defence to charge of manslaughter.

The applicant was convicted in the Circuit Court on a charge of manslaughter. The deceased, E. B., had engaged in a fight with P. K., a brother of the applicant, and the accused, coming to his brother's defence, struck E. B. a blow from behind. E. B. fell to the ground and received an injury to his head which proved fatal. The trial Judge in the course of his charge to the jury described the blow struck by the applicant as an assault and informed the jury that the assault was an unlawful act. He told the jury that the defence of his brother would have justified the accused's act if the blow in question had been struck in defending his brother from a felonious attack, but that the principle of self-defence did not extend to cases of misdemeanours of any kind and that an assault was a misdemeanour. On an application for leave to appeal from the said conviction it was

Held by the Court of Criminal Appeal

1, That the trial Judge's description of the blow as "an assault" and "an unlawful act" amounted to a misdirection in as much us it might have given the jury the impression that they had no question of fact to decide as to the lawfulness or otherwise of the use of force by the applicant.

2, That in the circumstances of the case the trial Judge's statement to the jury that the principle of self-defence did not extend to misdemeanours was a misdirection.

3, That the evidence was such as to leave open a reasonable possibility that the use of force by the applicant was not unlawful; and that it would have been open to the jury to hold that this force had been used by the applicant in the necessary defence of his brother from an assault and that no more force had been used than was necessary.

4, That the use of force is lawful for the necessary defence of self or others or of property; but the justification is limited by the necessity of the occasion and the use of unnecessary force is an assault.

5, That the trial was unsatisfactory.

The Court accordingly quashed the conviction and ordered a new trial.

Criminal Appeal

Application for leave to appeal by the accused, Thomas Keatley, against the conviction and sentence recorded against him on an indictment for the manslaughter of one, Edward Byrne, on the 3rd August, 1952. On that date the accused, his brother, Peter Keatley, and Edward Byrne, were engaged with others in a game of pitch-and-toss, when a dispute arose in the course of which Edward Byrne struck Peter Keatley. The accused, who was either standing behind Edward Byrne or came from behind him, struck him, causing him to fall to the ground and, on examination, he was found to be dead. Medical evidence showed that it was more probable that the immediate cause of death was his head

striking a stone or other object embedded in the ground rather than the blow struck by the...

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