Father should not have been convicted of infant son’s murder – judge

Miscarriage of justice claim upheld in case where man spent 16 years in prison

The Director of Public Prosecutions had appealed the certification, saying the evidence relied on by the jury in the original trial was honest and given by a psychiatric expert

The Director of Public Prosecutions had appealed the certification, saying the evidence relied on by the jury in the original trial was honest and given by a psychiatric expert

 

The Court of Appeal has upheld a miscarriage of justice finding in the case of a father who spent 16 years in prison before he was found not guilty by reason of insanity of the murder of his infant son.

President of the three-judge court Mr Justice George Birmingham said Yusuf Ali Abdi (48) “should never have been convicted” and his conviction was “wrong in a fundamental aspect”. The approval of the miscarriage of justice application had entitled Mr Abdi to seek compensation from the State.

Mr Abdi, of Charleville Road, Phibsboro, Dublin 7, was convicted of murdering his 20-month-old son Nathan Barak Andrew Ali at The Elms, College Road, Clane, Co Kildare on April 17th, 2001 following a trial at the Central Criminal Court in 2003.

At that trial psychiatrists differed over whether Mr Abdi was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia when he caused his son’s death. Ten of the 12 jurors accepted the evidence of Dr Damien Mohan, the psychiatrist called by the prosecution, who said Mr Abdi was not suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Mr Abdi was convicted by a majority verdict.

In February 2019 the Court of Appeal heard that since his conviction Mr Abdi’s diagnosis had changed from depression to one of paranoid schizophrenia. The court found the changed diagnosis amounted to new evidence that, if known by the jury in 2003, could have influenced their verdict. The appeal court, therefore, quashed Mr Abdi’s conviction and ordered a retrial which resulted in a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

At that trial Dr Mohan said he was persuaded by the arguments made by a professor called by the defence and accepted that in 2003 Mr Abdi may have shown signs of mental illness. He also accepted that Mr Abdi had a history of paranoid schizophrenia.

Following the jury’s verdict Mr Justice Alex Owens at the High Court certified that Mr Abdi’s original conviction was a miscarriage of justice.

The Director of Public Prosecutions appealed the certification, saying the evidence relied on by the jury in the original trial was honest and given by a psychiatric expert.

Delivering Monday’s judgment Mr Justice Birmingham said there was no question in this case of prosecutorial irregularity or perjured evidence. The question, he said, was whether the conviction was “wrong in a fundamental aspect”. He said the decisive factor in the retrial was that psychiatric experts called by both the defence and prosecution agreed that Mr Abdi was suffering from schizophrenia when he killed his son. There is no doubt about that diagnosis, the judge said, and Mr Abdi “should never have been convicted”.

Miscarriage of justice

He said the conviction for murder was therefore “wrong in a fundamental aspect” and Mr Justice Owens was correct to certify it as a miscarriage of justice.

The trial had heard that on the night of the killing, Mr Abdi’s wife and child visited his apartment. The father removed his son from his mother’s bed at about 4am and took him to the living room, where he locked the door. His wife heard a number of loud bangs and when she gained entry to the room, the child’s body was limp, his head was swollen and he had blood in his nose. She couldn’t find the child’s pulse and he was pronounced dead at 5.30am.

A pathologist found the child died from head injuries which were most likely caused from his head impacting at least three or four times against a hard surface such as a wall or floor. The jury heard the nature and severity of the toddler’s head injuries could not have been caused accidentally such as by a fall.

During the four-day retrial, Mr Abdi’s wife, Amanda Bailey, said she met Mr Abdi in May 1998 and they began a relationship that summer. Mr Abdi was an asylum seeker and his father had been murdered in the civil war in Somalia. They married in May 1999. She was very much in love with her husband and Nathan was born on August 30th, 1999, she said.

Mr Abdi was arrested in 1999 following an incident with gardaí and Ms Bailey said she felt this event caused her partner to change, bringing back the fear he had once felt in Somalia. She had told him he needed help from a doctor but he felt he did not have any mental health issues.