Tuesday 21 November 2017

Court quashes couple's convictions for killing MS sufferer by neglect

Jonathan Costen and Eleanor Joel after overturning their conviction for the neglect of the late Evelyn Joel. Photo: Courtpix
Jonathan Costen and Eleanor Joel after overturning their conviction for the neglect of the late Evelyn Joel. Photo: Courtpix
The late Evelyn Joel. Photo: Mary Browne

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A couple convicted of killing a 59-year-old MS sufferer by neglect have had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Evelyn Joel's daughter Eleanor (41) and her partner Jonathan Costen (43) had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful killing of Evelyn by neglect in Co Wexford in January 2006.

They were found guilty at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court and were given a two-year suspended sentence in March 2013 on condition they carry out 230 hours of community service.

The pair, with last addresses at Cluain Dara, Enniscorthy, appealed their convictions, with the Court of Appeal yesterday holding that the couple succeeded on a number of grounds.

Ambulance personnel who saw Evelyn in December 2005 were "greatly disturbed by the condition in which they found their patient". The bed she was lying in was filthy, her lower body was covered in faeces and she had extensive bed sores found to contain maggots.

Admitted to hospital on January 1, 2006, she initially made progress but developed pneumonia and died on January 7.

Mr Justice Birmingham said Eleanor Joel and Mr Costen contended that others, including healthcare professionals and local authority officials, were responsible for such negligence as allegedly occured.

While there was no indication of criminal conduct, Mr Justice Birmingham said the nature of the HSE's interaction with Evelyn Joel "gave rise to concern and disquiet".

"During the final four months of her life, the HSE involvement ... was limited to leaving nappies outside the house," he said.

"One would have to say that there were sufficient indications of possible failings on the part of statutory agencies, the Minister for Health spoke of huge failings, that the matter required investigation."

The healthcare professionals who dealt with Evelyn Joel were potentially "very significant witnesses" and ought to have been called, the judge said.

The judge also said the retrial "should have been transferred from Wexford to Dublin".

He said the replacement of a juror was taken in the absence of Ms Joel's legal advisors.

And Evelyn Joel's complicated medical history made identifying the exact cause of death not altogether straightforward.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, quashed the couple's conviction.

Irish Independent

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