The People (at the suit of the DPP) v Yusif Ali Abdi

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr Justice Peter Charleton
Judgment Date30 May 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] IESC 24
CourtSupreme Court
Docket NumberSupreme Court appeal number: S:AP:IE:2021:000115 Central Criminal Court bill number: CCDP 87/2002
Between
The People (at the suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions)
Prosecutor/Appellant
and
Yusif Ali Abdi
Accused/Respondents

Dunne J

Charleton J

O'Malley J

Woulfe J

Murray J

Supreme Court appeal number: S:AP:IE:2021:000115

Court of Appeal record number: A:AP:IE:2020:000202

Central Criminal Court bill number: CCDP 87/2002

An Chúirt Uachtarach

The Supreme Court

Conviction – Miscarriage of justice – Acquittal – Respondent seeking a declaration that a conviction was a miscarriage of justice – Whether the respondent was acquitted

Facts: The accused/respondent, Mr Abdi, was accused of the murder of his infant son, pleaded insanity as a defence, was convicted by a jury which rejected that defence, spent a decade in custody which mostly involved treatment in the Central Mental Hospital, making the reality of his mental illness increasingly apparent so that the State forensic psychiatrist, who testified at trial in contradiction of two other forensic psychiatrists’ views that the accused was a paranoid schizophrenic, changed his mind, leading to an order of retrial due to a newly-discovered fact and that trial jury acquitting the accused on the grounds of insanity. The accused sought a declaration that the conviction was a miscarriage of justice under s. 9 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993. On his behalf it was argued that he was clearly acquitted by a jury at the retrial ordered upon the acceptance by the Court of Appeal that the change in diagnosis was a newly-discovered fact; the prosecution disagreed and claimed that because there was no contest over the fact that the accused killed his son, a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity was not an acquittal. That a forensic psychiatrist changed his mind, in consequence of treatment reports and a fresh review of clinical materials and the commissioning by the prosecution of a further expert report from outside the State system, was argued on behalf of the accused to amount to a miscarriage of justice; the prosecution replied that what had occurred had been “a carriage of justice” on the basis that no contest had been raised that all of the prosecution witnesses acted in good faith and that this was no more than the system correcting errors in the ordinary way. By a determination of 14 January 2022 ([2022] IESCDET 5), the Supreme Court decided that there were legal issues of general public importance enabling an appeal under Article 34.4.4° of the Constitution, stating: “The Court is satisfied that the applicant has raised an issue of general public importance as to the meaning of “acquittal” in the context of section 9 of the 1993 Act and further, as to the meaning of “miscarriage of justice” as set out in section 9 and whether such meaning encompasses the type of situation that has occurred in this case, involving a changed medical diagnosis which arose many years after the conviction of the person seeking a section 9 certificate.”

Held by the Court that an error whereby with greater experience of the symptomology of an accused and reports on actual treatment within a hospital setting causes a forensic psychiatrist to revise a diagnosis does not amount to an affront to the justice system so as to demonstrate a fundamental failure in the administration of justice. The Court held that since the mind of the accused and the disease overcoming it is totally within the experience of an accused and may confound the usual approach that a person intends what he or she does, unless the circumstances otherwise suggest, a person pleading insanity must call a consultant psychiatrist in addition to whatever other evidence supports a diagnosis of a mind not knowing the nature and quality of the action causing death, or that such action was wrong, or that an uncontrollable insane impulse drove the accused’s body through his or her mind, and thereby establish insanity as a probability. The Court held that this is what the accused had done, demonstrating to the jury on the retrial on the balance of probabilities that in killing his son in April 2001 he was acting in the grip of insanity. The Court held that this is an acquittal, as the jury’s verdict indicated. The Court held that in an analysis particular to insanity and having regard to the burden and standard of proof, that verdict demonstrates innocence.

The Court held that a certificate should issue.

Appeal dismissed.

Judgment of Mr Justice Peter Charleton delivered on Monday 30 May 2022

1

Where a person is accused of the murder of his infant son, pleads insanity as a defence, is convicted by a jury which rejects that defence, spends a decade in custody which mostly involves treatment in the Central Mental Hospital, making the reality of the accused's mental illness increasingly apparent so that the State forensic psychiatrist, who testified at trial in contradiction of two other forensic psychiatrists' views that the accused was a paranoid schizophrenic, changes his mind, leading to an order of retrial due to a newly-discovered fact and that trial jury acquitting the accused on the grounds of insanity, do these unprecedented and extraordinary facts give rise to an entitlement to a declaration that the conviction was a miscarriage of justice under s 9 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1993?

Core issues
2

On behalf of the accused it is argued that he was clearly acquitted by a jury at the retrial ordered upon the acceptance by the Court of Appeal that the change in diagnosis was a newly-discovered fact; the prosecution disagree and claim that because there is no contest over the fact that the accused killed his son, a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity is not an acquittal. That a forensic psychiatrist changes his mind, in consequence of treatment reports and a fresh review of clinical materials and the commissioning by the prosecution of a further expert report from outside the State system, is argued on behalf of the accused to amount to a miscarriage of justice; the prosecution replying that what has occurred has been “a carriage of justice” on the basis that no contest has been raised that all of the prosecution witnesses acted in good faith and that this is no more than the system correcting errors in the ordinary way.

Determination
3

By a determination of 14 January 2022, [2022] IESCDET 5, this Court decided that there were legal issues of general public importance enabling an appeal under Article 34.4.4° of the Constitution, stating:

The Court is satisfied that the applicant has raised an issue of general public importance as to the meaning of “acquittal” in the context of section 9 of the 1993 Act and further, as to the meaning of “miscarriage of justice” as set out in section 9 and whether such meaning encompasses the type of situation that has occurred in this case, involving a changed medical diagnosis which arose many years after the conviction of the person seeking a section 9 certificate.

Background facts
4

On the night of 17 April 2001, the accused entered the bedroom of his estranged wife, took his infant son, who was sleeping in her bed and who was not yet 2 years old, brought him into another room, locking the door behind him, and hit the boy so severely that he died. By the time the victim's mother was able to respond, the child was already dead and the accused was offering prayers. There had been an immediate background whereby the accused had recently obtained refugee status, had assaulted his wife, had exhibited paranoid delusional behaviour, had assaulted a Garda, had insisted on a smoke alarm being checked for a hidden spy camera and had concerns over whether in the imminent separation of the couple he would have access to the child and over the religion in which the child might be raised. Their family doctor had expressed the view in the light of these events that, more than likely, the accused would have to be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital.

5

On being charged with murder, and cautioned that he was not obliged to make any response, the accused said “I don't know. Nothing to say. I don't remember anything. I am not in good stead. I am so upset my son is dead. I am sorry it happened. That's all”. The defence consulted a forensic psychiatrist for the first trial, Dr Brian McCaffrey. There were five interviews with Dr McCaffrey. It is posited by the prosecution that at the consultation in January, before the first trial, the accused first mentioned external voices commanding him to kill his son. The State was not in a position to have Dr Damien Mohan, of the Central Mental Hospital, their forensic psychiatrist interview the accused until literally the day before the matter came on for trial on 19 January 2003. This was not a satisfactory situation. The first trial began on 20 January 2003 with Dr McCaffrey expressing the view that at the time of the killing the accused was insane and Dr Mohan opposing that view, being sceptical as to the self-reporting of the accused, the factual circumstance of the door to the room where the child was killed being purposively locked and the late reporting to Dr McCaffrey as to voices. At that trial, the jury disagreed and so no verdict was possible.

6

A retrial was held shortly afterwards on 14 May 2003. By that stage, the defence had also engaged Dr Aggrey Washington Burke and, together with evidence from Dr McCaffrey, sought to persuade the jury that a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia operative at the time of the killing, and responsible for the accused's actions, was the correct verdict, with Dr Mohan taking an opposite viewpoint. The accused was convicted by majority verdict, 10:2, of murder two weeks later on 28 May 2003, the jury rejecting the defence of insanity. Consequently, the accused was sentenced to life imprisonment. An appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeal was unsuccessful; [2004] IECCA 47.

7

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4 cases
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    • Ireland
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    ...his arguments that “ fraud unravels everything”: The People (at the suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions) v Yusif Ali Abdi [2022] IESC 24 and M v The Minister for Foreign Affairs & Anor [2022] IESC 25. The former related to a declaration of miscarriage of justice under the Criminal P......
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