People (Attorney-General) v Murphy

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
Judgment Date23 January 1947
Date23 January 1947

Court of Criminal Appeal

The People (Attorney-General) v. Murphy
THE PEOPLE (at the suit of the Attorney-General)
and
STEPHEN MURPHY (1)

Criminal law - Appeal - Evidence - Statements by accused - Improper inducement - Caution prior to statement - Duty of trial Judge to be judicially satisfied that inducement had ceased to operate on mind of accused before statement made - Statement made in answer to questions by police officer - Whetheripso facto inadmissible - Expression "you are all right" meaning "you will be all right" - Whether an improper inducement - Onus on prosecution to establish that statement is voluntary.

Criminal Appeal.

The applicant, Stephen Murphy, was, on the 23rd day of November, 1945, at the Central Criminal Court, convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The trial Judge refused to grant a certificate that the case was a fit one for appeal. The applicant then applied to the Court of Criminal Appeal for leave to appeal.

For the purposes of this report, the grounds of the application for leave to appeal, and the facts of the case, are sufficiently set out in the judgment of the Court.

During investigations into a murder, the accused made certain statements to police officers. The first statement was in answer to a series of questions. The second statement, made after he had been cautioned, followed an improper inducement shortly before held out by one of the police officers. The trial Judge ruled that the administering of the caution prior to the statement satisfied the requirements of the law. The third, an oral statement, was made to a police officer before the latter had completed administering the caution. The statement was made shortly after the police officer had said to the accused:—". . . you are all right" and shortly after a civilian, who was acting in concert with the police officer, had said:—"Go with the Guard—the Guard is only for your good."

Held that:—

1. A statement made by an accused person, in answer to questions put by a police officer, is not inadmissible unless the questioning is of such a character, and carried to such an extent, that the statement ceases to be free and voluntary. The onus rests upon the prosecution to establish that a statement is voluntary.

2. The mere giving of a caution, however formal in its terms, does not necessarily satisfy the requirements of the law that a statement must be a voluntary one. Where an improper inducement has been held out by a person in authority, the trial Judge must be satisfied that the inducement had ceased to operate on the mind of the accused, and that the statement was not made under the influence of that inducement.

3. The expression "you are all right" meaning "you will be all right"constitutes an improper inducement.

Accordingly, the appeal was allowed, the conviction set aside and a new trial ordered.

Cur. adv. vult.

The judgment of the Court was delivered by O'Byrne J.

O'Byrne J. :—

The applicant, Stephen Murphy, was tried in the Central Criminal Court for the murder of Michael Joseph Loftus, a boy of eight and a half years. He was convicted on the 23rd November, 1945, after a trial which lasted for five days, and was sentenced to death. He thereupon applied to the learned trial Judge, under s. 31 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1924 for a certificate that the case was a fit case for appeal, and that application was refused. He now applies to this Court, by way of appeal from such refusal, for a certificate to enable him to appeal.

The boy, Michael Joseph Loftus, lived with his parents in the townland of Ballinabaun, near Crossmolina, in the County of Mayo. The accused lived with his father and brother a short distance from the Loftus household. Michael Joseph Loftus was at Mass in Crossmolina on Sunday the 17th June, 1945. After Mass he came home and had his breakfast and was last seen, about 11.30 a.m. in the vicinity of his home. After his disappearance, an exhaustive search was instituted, in which hundreds of people participated, and, ultimately, the dead body of the boy was found buried in the ground in the midst of a clump of whin bushes about four hundred yards away from the Loftus home. Medical examination disclosed that the skull was extensively fractured by several violent blows from a heavy instrument, such as a spade, and the fact of murder was clearly established. The case for the prosecution was directed to establishing that the accused was the person who inflicted the injuries.

This application is based upon seven grounds—the first three are concerned with the alleged wrongful admission in evidence of confessions or statements made by the applicant, the fourth alleges that evidence as to the finding of a spadehead was wrongly admitted in evidence, the fifth and sixth grounds deal with alleged misdirections by the trial Judge in his charge to the jury and the seventh alleges that the finding of the jury on the question of the alleged insanity of the accused was against the evidence and the weight of the evidence. In the course of the argument, the fourth and fifth grounds were abandoned by counsel for the accused.

The first statement, to which objection was taken by counsel for the accused and which constitutes the subject-matter of ground No. 1 in the application for leave to appeal, is a statement in writing taken by Chief Superintendent Butler and signed by the accused. The circumstances, in which the statement was taken, were as follows:—On the evening of the 26th June a pair of boots, alleged to belong to the accused, was discovered by guards concealed in a hedge about 200 yards from the house of the accused and about 150 yards from where the body of the murdered boy was found. The boots were not removed; but...

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5 cases
  • People (Attorney-General) v Galvin
    • Ireland
    • Court of Criminal Appeal
    • 2 February 1964
    ...made at 12.15 a.m. R. v. Johnston15 Ir. C.L.R. 60; Attorney-General v. M'CabeIR[1927] I.R. 129 and People (Attorney-General)v. MurphyIR [1947] I.R. 236 approved. People (Attorney-General) v. C.DIJR [1943] Ir. Jur. Rep. 74 not approved. Court of Criminal Appeal. The People (Attorney General)......
  • People v Kelly (No. 2)
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 1 January 1983
    ...[1964] I.R. 325. 27 The People (Attorney General) v. C.DIJR [1943] Ir. Jur. Rep. 74. 28 The People (Attorney General) v. MurphyIR [1947] I.R. 236. 29 The People (Attorney General) v. ManningDLTR (1954) 89 I.L.T.R. 155. 30 The Attorney-General v. McCabeIR [1927] I.R. 129. 31 R. v. MiddletonE......
  • Rainey v District Justice Delap
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 8 March 1988
    ...(1958) 95 I.L.T.R. 67. O'Brien v. Bord na MonaIRDLRM [1983] I.R. 255; [1983] I.L.R.M. 314. The People (Attorney General) v. MurphyIRDLTR [1947] I.R. 236; 80 I.L.T.R. 23. R. (McEvoy) v. The Corporation of Dublin (1878) 2 L.R. Ir. 371. The State (Crowley) v. The Irish Land CommissionIRDLTR [1......
  • H (T) v DPP & Judge Smithwick
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 9 March 2004
    ...If that had not been the position it is quite clear that no relief would have been granted. See also The People (A.G) v. Murphy 1947 I.R. 236, where once again the central issue was the exclusion of a statement obtained by an improper inducement. 141 41. In addition to these Irish cases, I ......
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