No compensation for man whose murder conviction overturned, DPP argues

Supreme Court hears appeal from DPP in case of man jailed for murdering child

The Director of Public Prosecutions wants the Supreme Court to define what is meant by a “miscarriage of justice” in an important appeal arising from the overturning of a man’s conviction for the murder of his infant son.

The five judge court on Tuesday heard the DPP's appeal concerning the case of Yusuf Ali Abdi who served 16 years in prison before his 2003 conviction for the April 2001 murder of his 20-month-old son, Nathan Baraka Andrew Ali, was overturned at a retrial in late 2019.

After psychiatrists for the prosecution and defence testified, at the time of the killing, Mr Abdi, a native of Somalia, with an address at Charleville Road, Phibsboro, Dublin, was suffering from delusions arising from schizophrenia, the jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity.

The jury heard Mr Abdi, who came to Ireland in 1997, suffered a lot of tragedy in Somalia, including witnessing the burnt body of his father who was killed there.


At his first trial in 2003, the prosecution disputed Mr Abdi suffered from schizophrenia at the time of his son’s killing. The jury at that trial returned a verdict of murder which was upheld on appeal.

In the years after his conviction, Mr Abdi was admitted to the Central Mental Hospital a number of times for treatment for mental illness. In 2013, he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

He secured a fresh appeal on grounds of a “newly discovered fact”, that his psychiatric history and presentation in the years after his sentence, and symptoms and signs he exhibited over years which, when his overall psychiatric history was considered, had led to his diagnosis being changed from one of depression and non-psychotic paranoid state to one of paranoid schizophrenia.

Mr Abdi argued he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of his son’s killing.

Mr Abdi won that appeal and his murder conviction was overturned. A retrial was ordered which resulted in his being found not guilty by reason of insanity. He later applied for compensation on the basis his initial conviction involved a miscarriage of justice.

Mr Justice Alexander Owens, sitting in the Central Criminal Court, held the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity amounted to an acquittal within the meaning of section 9.1 of the Criminal Procedure Act and Mr Abdi was entitled to have his initial conviction certified as a miscarriage of justice. The judge, who noted section 9 did not define a miscarriage of justice, held the medical opinion at the original trial that Mr Abdi was not suffering from schizophrenia resulted in the conviction being wrong in a fundamental respect.

The Court of Appeal upheld Mr Justice Owens’ findings. It said, given there was now agreement between medics that Mr Abdi was suffering from schizophrenia when he killed his son, he should never have been convicted of murder.

Changed diagnosis

In seeking a further appeal to the Supreme Court, the DPP said the issue of whether a person could, as a matter of law, be entitled to a section 9 certificate as a result of a changed medical diagnosis many years after their conviction is a matter of general public importance.

It was argued a section 9 certificate is usually only available in limited circumstances and none of those arose in this case. The State, the DPP submitted, should not be liable to pay compensation where it could not be said a prosecution should never have been brought where there was no malfunction of the administration of justice and where the newly discovered information was the result of a subsequent medical diagnosis.

Lawyers for Mr Abdi opposed any further appeal, arguing the existing law is clear and the COA’s judgment did not alter it. Another appeal is also not in the interests of justice as the case involved a mentally ill man and has been going on for almost 20 years, it was submitted.

In agreeing earlier this year to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court said the DPP had raised an issue of general public importance concerning the meanings of “acquittal” and of “miscarriage of justice” in the context of section 9 and whether that encompassed this situation involving a changed medical diagnosis which arose many years after Mr Abdi’s original conviction.

Judgment was reserved on the appeal.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times