Tuesday 22 August 2017

Defence asks jury for verdict of 'guilty of manslaughter' in murder trial closing speeches

Gardai at the scene in Terenure, Dublin; Inset: Cathal Sweeney in his rugby days
Gardai at the scene in Terenure, Dublin; Inset: Cathal Sweeney in his rugby days

Natasha Reid

A jury has heard closing speeches in the trial of a Dublin man, charged with murdering a 62-year-old by punching him until he admitted to a sexual assault that the accused had been told he had committed.

The barristers were addressing the Central Criminal Court jury today in the trial of 34-year-old Gary Walsh, who is charged with murdering Cathal Sweeney in Ashdale Gardens, Terenure in Dublin.

The former rugby captain died of blunt force trauma to the head and face after being punched in the face, as they spent an afternoon watching rugby in a mutual friend’s flat.

Mr Walsh, a father-of-one with an address at The Watercourse, Orwell Park in Templeogue, has pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter on 8th February 2014.

Prosecutor Patrick McCarthy SC said the issue in this case was specific intent.

“Intention involves him acting with the purpose of bringing about a result,” he said. “What was his intention when he violently assaulted Cathal Sweeney?”

The court heard that the accused had met the deceased for the first time that morning, but had been told about Mr Sweeney. The occupant of the flat, Colm Campbell, had told him that the deceased had sexually assaulted a man. The court has heard that the complainant had withdrawn the allegation.

The accused had said he hit him until he admitted it, while Mr Sweeney was sitting.

Mr McCarthy said that Mr Walsh had violently pummelled Mr Sweeney. He noted bruising and lacerations to his face, including seven that caused excessive bleeding.

“The fracture of the nose and cheekbone, and swelling to the head are corroboration of a significant, violent attack on Cathal Sweeney,” he said. “He would have walked out the following day but for this attack on him.”

The barrister said that If the blows were intended to cause serious injury, as a result of which he died, the jury should convict him of murder.

Defence counsel Brendan Grehan SC, pointed out that Mr Sweeney had various ailments, about which his client could not have known.

“He couldn’t have known Mr Sweeney was on warfarin,” he began, “And had a serious liver problem that was also going to contribute to him bleeding profusely, and that Mr Sweeney was going to lie down on the bed, go unconscious and the blood go into his throat.”

He suggested that Mr Sweeney had died as a result of neglect, through Mr Walsh and Mr Campbell failing to get him prompt medical intervention or to even put him into the recovery position.

He noted that the pathologist had accepted that the six or seven punches Mr Walsh had admitted giving could have accounted for all the injuries.

“If there’s a result that is not the natural and probable consequence, if punches to the face cause a broken nose and cheekbone, and that person dies because of their own condition, because of neglect, because no-one’s keeping eye out for the way he’s lying, then that is not a natural and probable consequence of his actions,” he said.

He said this was a row that appeared to start with ‘verbals’, with Mr Campbell insisting he had committed the sexual assault, Mr Sweeney denying it and Mr Walsh striking him through some sense of loyalty to Mr Campbell.

“What you’re being asked to do is put a label on this man,” he suggested. “Does he belong in that pantheon of people who have murdered, who have set out to take life or cause serious injury?”

He asked for a verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty has begun charging the jury of six women and six men and will continue with his charge tomorrow morning.

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