Supreme Court to hear appeal by man alleged to have stabbed fellow patient

Patient suffered paralysis due to assault in hospital in 2010 and died eight months later

The Supreme Court will hear an appeal brought by a man alleged to have stabbed a fellow hospital patient in the neck with a steak knife.

The patient suffered paralysis due to the assault in hospital in May 2010 and he died eight months later.

The accused man, who cannot be identified, was initially charged with assault causing serious harm, but, after the patient died, this was abandoned and he was charged with murder.

A judge in 2012 determined the man was unfit to plead due to mental illness.


Due to this finding, the judge ordered that an inquiry, under section 4(8) of the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act of 2006, should be held to decide whether he did the act alleged.

The prosecution lodged an indictment charging the man with murder and one count of assault causing serious harm.

Another judge ruled in 2015 that, based on the medical evidence, there was reasonable doubt that the patient’s death was caused by the injuries he sustained during the assault. The judge found the murder charge must fall away.

The court also held that the man would have been found guilty of assault causing serious harm and that that count on the indictment should not be discharged.

The man, who was admitted to a mental hospital, appealed to the Court of Appeal arguing the assault count on the indictment was not properly before the court and the 2006 Act does not have a mechanism for adding counts to an indictment.

His legal team submitted he had been sent forward for the fitness plea hearing while charged only with murder and, when discharged of murder, he no longer stood charged with any criminal offence.

The appeal court upheld the lower court’s findings and found it was open to the court to conclude during a section 4(8) inquiry that an accused did acts constituting an alternative offence.

The background of the case was set out in a determination by a three-judge Supreme Court panel, which decided the man’s appeal contains a question of general public importance.

The appeal will centre on the interpretation of section 4(8) of the 2006 Act and whether a trial judge can consider alternative offences to the charge of murder with which the applicant was charged.

In seeking to appeal, the man submitted the courts do not have the power to find, during the course of the inquiry into whether he committed the crime he was charged with, that he committed an alternative offence that he was not validly charged with.

The Director of Public Prosecutions opposed the appeal application, arguing the victim’s family continues to be affected by the long-running proceedings.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter