Soldier denied further appeal over conviction for ‘punishment beating’ of recruit

Pte Philip McCarthy was convicted after pleading not guilty at court-martial to 12 charges relating to 2021 incident at Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick, in which he assaulted Pte Jack Canty

A soldier has been denied another appeal over his conviction for what was described as a “punishment beating” he helped inflict on a recruit due to his poor performance during training.

Pte Philip McCarthy, of the 12th Infantry Battalion, had pleaded not guilty at a court martial to 12 charges relating to an incident in an accommodation block at Sarsfield Barracks, Limerick, on July 18th, 2021, in which he assaulted Pte Jack Canty.

He was convicted, sentenced to seven days of detention and discharged from the Defence Forces. He appealed and the Court of Appeal upheld the court-martial decision and confirmed his conviction. He asked the Supreme Court for a further appeal, but this was refused.

A three-judge Supreme Court panel comprising Ms Justice Marie Baker (since retired), Mr Justice Séamus Woulfe and Mr Justice Maurice Collins found the intended appeal did not raise any point of law of general public importance as claimed by McCarthy.


The court martial heard Pte Canty had been called into his room by another recruit who shared the room with him. When Pte Canty entered, that recruit left and McCarthy was present with at least two other recruits.

Pte Canty alleged McCarthy had prevented him from leaving his room and had kicked, punched and strangled him, put him in a headlock and threw him to the floor in what the prosecution subsequently characterised as a “punishment beating”.

McCarthy admitted to having entered Pte Canty’s room to speak to him about his performance in training, but he insisted that “there had been no violence”.

A military judge, in convicting him, said he believed the evidence of Pte Canty and the prosecution witnesses, and he rejected as not credible the suggestion that Pte Canty had “concocted an entirely false narrative of the incident”.

The military judge found McCarthy not guilty of a number of charges against him, including assault causing harm, but convicted him of false imprisonment and of assault involving a headlock.

He was subsequently discharged, but lodged an appeal claiming the military judge had failed to apply the correct standard of proof, the reasons given for his conviction, alleged reliance on narrative and hearsay evidence, and that there were alleged errors in relation to the disclosure of medical evidence.

The Court of Appeal (CoA) did not find the military judge’s conclusions on the facts surprising, adding that it was “almost inconceivable that any other conclusion would have been reached”. The CoA also rejected McCarthy’s other grounds of appeal.

The Supreme Court panel, in refusing a further appeal, said it was not satisfied that any issue concerning the standard of review by the CoA properly arose. The CoA also clearly considered that the military judge sufficiently explained his findings here, the panel said.

It was clear from the CoA judgment that it had carefully reviewed the transcripts of the hearing and the ruling of the military judge, had considered whether the conclusions reached were ones which no reasonable military judge could have come to, and had concluded very clearly that they were not, it said. It was not in the interests of justice to permit a further appeal, the Supreme Court panel added.