Tomkins murder conviction quashed


The Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA) has quashed the conviction of a man jailed for life for the murder of his older brother and ordered a retrial.

Cecil Tomkins (63), a farmer who is a wheel chair user with advanced Parkinson’s disease, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Walter Tomkins (66) at the family home in Cronlea, Shillelagh, Wicklow, on July 1, 2010.

Today, a three-judge CCA said at his trial heard how he told gardaí he shot his brother and fellow bachelor in the hallway of the house they shared because Walter did not follow his mother’s burial wishes.

Bella Tomkins was buried locally in Aghowle with her late husband just three days before the shooting, even though she had reserved a plot in Gorey and had left a letter outlining her wishes and money to put toward her burial there, the trial also heard.

Last April, Cecil Tomkins was jailed for life by Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan after a jury of nine men and three women found him guilty of murder by unanimous decision following a seven-day trial.

Mr Tomkins appealed his conviction to the CCA seeking to overturn the jury’s decision as unsafe. His lawyers argued there was a question over whether he was capable of forming the necessary intent for murder given his medical condition. The State opposed the appeal.

Today, the CCA quashed the conviction and ordered a retrial after finding that the trial judge, in his charge to the jury, erred in law because he did not deal with the point that premeditation is not necessarily inconsistent with diminished responsibility.

The prosecution had laid great emphasis on the question of premeditation in the context of Mr Tomkins’ defence of provocation, the CCA said.

While the trial judge’s charge to the jury was fair and objective, the jury was not specifically charged that premeditation is not necessarily inconsistent with diminished responsibility, the CCA said. The charge to the jury therefore contained an error in law.

The CCA had a fundamental duty to ensure justice is done. The absence of such a direction, in the light of all the evidence, was viewed by the CCA as having been of substantial and fundamental importance to the fairness of the trial and was reasonably likely to have left the jury with an incomplete and erroneous view of the law applicable to diminished responsibility.

In the light of these exceptional circumstances, the CCA said it was quashing the conviction and directing a retrial.

Mr Tomkins, who the court heard is now incapable of independent living, will remain in custody until he is brought before the Central Criminal Court so that he can be released on bail pending the re-trial.