De Rossa's son not guilty by reason of insanity
THE SON of former Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa has been found not guilty by reason of insanity of assaulting his father in their Dublin home.
The jury returned the verdict following a few minutes’ deliberation after being told by the judge that the appropriate verdict was not guilty under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2010.
Fearghal De Rossa (46) severely beat his father in an unprovoked attack. A passerby gave evidence that he was sure he was trying to kill the victim as he beat him with a shovel in front of their house.
Mr De Rossa snr (72) told the court through a barrister that the only reason he had pursued the prosecution of his son was to get him to submit to psychiatric treatment.
Following the verdict, Judge Desmond Hogan committed Fearghal to the Central Mental Hospital for treatment.
The trial heard evidence from two psychiatrists that Fearghal suffered from a mental disorder and did not know what he was doing was wrong.
The judge said it was a tragic case and the evidence was difficult to listen to. He told the jury it was “perfectly safe” to arrive at a verdict of not guilty through insanity.
Fearghal, Old Finglas Road, Glasnevin, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm to his father at their home on November 11th, 2011.
Under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act, a person may use the defence of insanity if they can prove they suffered from a mental illness at the time that compelled them to commit the crime or prevented them understanding their actions.
In such cases, the burden of proof is on the defence.
During Mr De Rossa’s trial, the prosecution and defence cases were almost identical. Both agreed that an assault had taken place and that Fearghal was legally insane at the time. However, a trial was required because the Act states that only a jury can decide if the insanity defence is valid.
Dr Brenda Wright told Tara Burns, prosecuting, that Fearghal suffered from a schizo-affective disorder that caused persistent and strongly held delusions that were not subject to reason. She said Fearghal believed he was being persecuted by the Garda and that his father was helping them. She said he held a “psychotic moral justification” for attacking Mr De Rossa.
An expert defence witness largely agreed with Dr Wright. Prof Patricia Casey said Fearghal was drinking to excess at the time and had almost completely stopped taking his medication.
She said he was now responding more successfully to medication and his family was keen to re-establish their relationship with him.
The trial had previously heard that Mr De Rossa had returned from the inauguration of President Michael D Higgins when the attack began. He was in hospital for six days and required surgery to his forearm.
He said his son calmly told him: “I’m going to kill you” before starting to punch him the face. “Don’t do this Fearghal, I’m your dad,” Mr De Rossa said. “I’ve never done anything to you.”
Mr De Rossa said Fearghal kept punching him deliberately and “almost calmly” in the same place. He managed to run outside but his son caught him and the attack resumed. “I believed I was going to be killed by my son and that that he would spend the rest of his days in prison and I thought how terrible that would be,” he said.
He remembered a passerby intervening but that his son then returned with a shovel and continued attacking him.
An ambulance was passing by at the time. Paramedic David English said in a statement that he and others restrained Fearghal before he treated the victim, whose face was swollen and bleeding.
Gerard Murphy, a passing taxi driver, said he saw Fearghal lift the shovel above his head and bring it down full-force on Mr De Rossa. “If nobody had been there he wouldn’t have stopped,” he said.