People (Attorney General) v Keating

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
Judgment Date01 January 1954
Date01 January 1954

Court of Criminal Appeal.

The People (Attorney General) v. Keatley
THE PEOPLE (at the suit of the Attorney General)
and
THOMAS KEATLEY (1)

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.

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 accused. The skull of the deceased man had been fractured and there was a punctured wound on the side of his head.

The accused was tried in the Circuit Court at Naas, Co. Kildare, before Circuit Court Judge Fawsitt and a jury on the 8th and 9th December, 1952.

At the trial the case for the accused was, in substance, that in striking Edward Byrne he was acting in defence of his brother.

In the course of his charge to the jury the trial Judge described the blow struck by the accused as an assault and an unlawful act, and he informed the jury that the defence of his brother would have justified the acts of the accused if the blow struck 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.

The accused was found guilty of the offence charged and was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment with hard labour. The trial Judge refused to give a certificate that the case was a fit one for an appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal, and the accused now applied to the Court of Criminal Appeal for leave to appeal. The main grounds of appeal were 1, that "the learned Circuit Court Judge misdirected the jury on the law of excusable hormicide arising where one person delivers a blow to save another who is in imminent peril," and 2, that the trial Judge had misdirected the jury in informing them that the facts of the case did not support a defence of excusable homicide.

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...

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