Saturday 21 July 2018

Construction worker who attacked man in neighbour's row found not guilty of manslaughter

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Stock Picture

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A Kildare construction worker who attacked a man in a neighbour's row over noise and late night drinking has been found not guilty of his manslaughter.

Father-of-four Paul Gill (37) of Sarto Road, Naas, Co Kildare denied the unlawful killing of Patrick “Patsy” Kelly at Sarto Road, on August 22, 2015. He had admitted assaulting Mr Kelly causing him harm.

Mr Gill has also pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to Mr Kelly's friend, Martin Curtis, during the same incident.

After a six day trial a jury of eight men and four women returned a verdict of not guilty to manslaghter after just under two hours of deliberations. Mr Gill showed no reaction when the verdict was read out.

Mr Gill, who was remanded on continuing bail, will be sentenced on November 20 in relation to the assault on Mr Kelly and on Mr Curtis. Victim impact statements from Mr Kelly's family and friends will also be heard on this date.

The trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court had heard that the altercation between neighbours took place after seven years of complaints over anti-social behaviour, late-night drinking and noise.

During the course of the trial several eye witnesses described seeing Mr Gill grab Mr Kelly by the collar and drag him seven metres along the road.

The court heard the defendant repeatedly punched Mr Kelly in the face, and also kicked him the head or chest area.

In her charge to the jury of eight men and four women, Judge Melanie Greally said that the medical evidence was at the heart of the case.

She said that in order to convict Mr Gill of manslaughter the jury must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the assault on Mr Kelly was one of the causes which contributed to his death.

Earlier in the trial Professor Marie Cassidy, the State Pathologist said the main cause of death was heart disease, with high levels of alcohol in the deceased man's blood and the injuries sustained in the assault being contributory factors.

Prof. Cassidy told the court that a post-mortem revealed that Mr Kelly had an enlarged heart with several blocked arteries.

She said that none of the injuries inflicted on Mr Kelly during the course of the assault would be life threatening to a healthy individual. Prof. Cassidy said that the fear of threat or injury could have resulted in a fatal arrhythmia and death.

She said that it wasn't possible to say if the stress from the assault or Mr Kelly's level of intoxication played a bigger role in his death.

Dr Mary Sheppard, a cardiac pathologist, gave evidence that people can actually die from fright, Judge Greally said.

The court heard that this phenomenon was known as 'takotsubo', a Japanese word for a type of fishing pot, as the heart can contract into that shape as a result of stress.

Dr Sheppard said it was impossible to say if alcohol or stress was a bigger factor in Mr Kelly's death.

In her closing speech to the jury Orla Crowe SC, prosecuting, said that the fact that Mr Gill didn't intend to kill Mr Kelly was irrelevant.

She referred to medical evidence which showed that although Mr Kelly had consumed alcohol on the day he died, his toxicology report showed that his blood alcohol level was not in the potentially fatal range.

Ms Crowe told the jury that the assault left Mr Kelly with a deep cut to his forehead, bruising on his face, arms, hands and knees, while an internal examination revealed bruising on the deceased man's scalp.

In his closing remarks, Seamus Clarke SC, defending, said that all the evidence in the case came down to whether the assault was a substantial cause of Mr Kelly's death.

He said Mr Gill was at the end of his tether regarding the anti-social behaviour, and that it was a dispute which had been festering for a long period of time.

“I remind you that medical evidence was given to the effect that there is no safe blood alcohol level for an individual with heart disease,”he said.

“Alcohol and Mr Kelly's state of intoxication on the night he died is at the foreground of this case.”

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