People v Lynch

JudgeO'HIGGINS C.J.,Walsh J.,KENNY J.:
Judgment Date01 January 1982
Neutral Citation1981 WJSC-SC 308
CourtSupreme Court
Docket Number(91-1978),[S.C. No. 91 of 1978]
Date01 January 1982

1981 WJSC-SC 308


O'Higgins CJ.

Walsh J.

Kenny J.




JUDGMENT delivered the 19th day of February 1981by O'HIGGINS C.J.


The Appellant was tried in the Central Criminal Court before Mr. Justice D'Arcy and a jury on the charge of having murdered one Vera Cullen. The trial lasted thirteen days and resulted in his conviction and the passing upon him of the mandatory sentence of penal servitude for life. Against this conviction the Appellant has appealed directly to this Court. In so doing, the Appellant exercised a right which is conferred by Article 34.4.3 of the Constitution. This expressly provides that the Supreme Court, as the court of final appeal shall, with such exceptions and subject to such regulations as may be prescribed by law, have appellate jurisdiction from all decisions of the High Court. The Central Criminal Court is the name applied to the High Court when exercising its criminal jurisdiction in relation to the trial of offencesand a verdict arrived at in that Court by a jury on the trial of an indictable offence is a decision of that Court. The present Court of Criminal Appeal was established by Section 3 of the Courts (Establishment and the Constitution) Act 1961and, by Section 12 of the Courts (Supplementary Provisions) Act 1961, there was vested in it all jurisdiction which had been vested in or which was capable of being exercised by the former Court of Criminal Appeal. This jurisdiction included a power to hear appeals by persons convicted on indictment before the Central Criminal Court. This power was conferred by Section 31 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924and this Section was in effect re-enacted to apply to the new Court of Criminal Appeal. None of these statutory provisions, however, purported to except or in any way limit or affect the existing appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 34.4.3. Accordingly, despite the establishment of the Court of Criminal Appeal and the provision for appeals to it from the Central Criminal Court there continues to exist also, a right to appeal from all decisions of theCentralCriminal Court, directly to the Supreme Court. However, a person who, having been convicted before the Central Criminal Court, appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeal thereby exhausts his right of appeal unless a certificate is granted by that Court under Section 29 of the Courts of Justice Act 1924. This right to appeal directly to the Supreme Court from decisions of the Central Criminal Court will continue to exist until such time as appropriate legislation is passed delimiting the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction in accordance with Article 34.4.3 of the Constitution. Such legislation could not, of course, contravene the prohibition contained in Article 34.4.4 with regard to excepting from the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court cases which involve questions as to the validity of any law, having regard to the provisions of the Constitution. Accordingly, even if legislation were introduced for the express purpose of accepting from the Supreme Court's appeallate jurisdiction appeals from the Central Criminal Court, such legislation could not extend to or affect case3 involving such questionsIn this case the Appellant has exercised this right to appeal directly to this Court. This Court, in turn, has entertained his appeal and in exercise of its jurisdiction to do so has unanimously, allowed it. The matter is listed to-day to enable reasons for this decision to begiven.


The appeal was mainly concerned with the question of the admissibility of a number of verbal statements and one written statement, all of an incriminating nature and all admittedly made by the Appellant. As there was no other evidence against the Appellant a decision to the effect that these statements ought to have been excluded meant that the conviction could not stand. Reliance was also placed in other grounds of appeal on complaints with regard to the manner in which the trial Judge charged the jury. If the appeal succeeded on these grounds only the result would be a re-trial. The Court, having already decided to quash the conviction of the Appellant, it follows that it was the unanimous view of this Court that the statements in question ought to have beenexcluded.


The following are the relevant facts. On the 19th September 1976 the Appellant who was a Gunner in the National Array, accompanied by one Eugene Delamere entered No. 77 Strand Road, Sandymount. It was about 12 noon. The two men entered by means of a door key which was lawfully in the Appellant's possession. When they entered the house they found the dead body of Vera Cullen lying on a small landing at the top of a stairs. A knife was embedded in her chest and a scarf was tightly bound around her neck. Subsequent Gardai evidence established that the body lay at the opening to a bedroom with the feet nearest the room the door of which was open. The feet were stockinged only and a pair of slippers lay close by, one beside each foot. On the floor near the body was a pair of ladies" pyjamas and a bedspread. Inside the bedroom, on the bed, was a lady's handbag which was open and, on the floor close by, a pair of outdoor ladies" shoes. The key to the room was in the door on the outside. The position of the body, the slippers, the night and bed clothes indicated that the unfortunate lady had been attackedwhileon her way to bed. On making the discovery the Appellant phoned 999 and subsequently the Gardaí and an ambulance arrived.


No. 77 Strand Road, Sandymount, was owned by a Mr. Stuart Martin. It was divided into two flats. At the time of the murder there was only one resident in the house, Miss Vera Cullen, who occupied the top flat. Miss Cullen was an employee of the Dublin Gas Company. She was in her fifties and was a sister-in-law of Mr. Martin. Mr. Martin also owned a block of flats in Rialto, one of which was let to the Appellant who resided therein, with his wife and an infant child. The Appellant was well known to Mr. Martin who employed him for odd jobs in connection with the upkeep of the flats. At the time of the murder Mr. Martin had engaged the Appellant, in his spare time, to paint and decorate the inside of No. 77 Strand Road. The work was to be done for a sum of £80. As the house would normally be unoccupied during most week days the Appellant was furnished with a key. Prior to the 19th September the Appellant who had already done a few days" work at intervalin the house. He had come along on the 19th, which was a Sunday, to finish the work he had commenced. Eugene Delamere who accompanied him was to have assisted him in finishing this work. It was thus, on the Applicant's case, that the murder was discovered.


Following the arrival of the Gardai and the removal of the body it was arranged that the Appellant should come to the Garda Station at Irishtown at 4 o'clock that afternoon in order to make a statement. This he duly did. Between 4 o'clock and 7.45 he gave a full and detailed account which was duly reduced to writing and signed by him. In this statement he set out his association with Mr. Martin, the arrangements made about painting No. 77, the number of times he had worked in the house, his meeting with Vera Cullen and the fact that he had been there the previous day. As to this he said that he had gone there to do a small job in connection with electric fittings. There was no-one on the house. When he was leaving at about 2.30 he saw two young men pushing a red Renault car outside. He walked home. He later met Eugene Delamere and arrangedfor his help in finishing the work on the following day. His statement then outlined how when they arrived at the house they discovered the dead body of Vera Cullen. His statement was detailed in relation to all his movements the previous day and, if true, absolved him of any complicity in the murder which, on the evidence at the trial was committed some time on the 18th September.


This appeal has been largely concerned with what happened to the Appellant following the making of this statement. At the trial the Gardai evidence was to the effect that at this stage and, indeed for a considerable time subsequent thereto, no-one entertained the slightest suspicion that the Appellant had been in any way involved in the murder of Vera Cullen. One would have expected in such circumstances that the Appellant would have been thanked for his co-operation and encouraged to go home to his wife and family. Instead, however, the Appellant remained on in the Garda Station throughout that night and right into the following morning, being subjected throughout that period to successive bouts of questioning by differentgroups of Gardai and at no time being afforded an opportunity of sleeping or resting. The Appellant maintained in evidence that this happened because he was not allowed to go home, although he frequently requested to be permitted to do so. The Gardai witnesses strongly denied this and indicated and maintained that the Appellant remained on in the Garda Station at all times as a free agent. Whatever was the reason, the fact was that he did so remain and that, while he was there, telephonic enquiries, seven in number, from his wife, his friends and family were never communicated to him nor did those enquiring for him receive any reliable information as to what was happening to him. In the early hours of Monday morning he was interviewed and questioned from 1.30 a.m. until 3 o'clock by Inspector Courtney and Detective Sergeant Canavan. Following this he was interviewed and again questioned for an hour by Inspector Pinlay. At 4 a.m. the questioning was resumed by Inspector Courtney and Detective Sergeant Canavan and continued until 6 a.m. Then...

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