Friday 23 August 2019

Jury finds man who attempted to kill himself from gas poisoning not guilty of criminal damage charges

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

Declan Brennan

A jury has found a man whose attempt to kill himself caused a “devastating” gas explosion not guilty of reckless endangerment and criminal damage charges.

Terence Maguire (63) cut into a gas pipe in his Dublin home and took some sleeping tablets in a plan to kill himself from gas poisoning. A short time later he went to the back door of his home and lit a cigarette, causing a huge explosion.

His own home was blown out and damage to three neighbouring buildings led to their demolition. A number of cars parked in the area were badly damaged by falling debris and other neighbouring homes had windows blown out.

The majority of costs have been covered by insurers, the trial heard, with only the defendant's house still demolished.

Mr Maguire, now of Blessington St., Dublin had pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly engaging in conduct which created a substantial risk of death or serious harm to another at Sullivan St., Dublin 7 on June 1, 2014. He also denied 13 charges of criminal damage of houses and cars around that location.

Mr Maguire accepted his actions of cutting the pipe and lighting the cigarette caused the explosion but said he had not intended them to do so.

He said his sole focus at the time was on killing himself to end the pain of the depression he suffered. The court heard Mr Maguire has battled with mental illness for 13 years and spent lengthy periods in treatment in psychiatric hospital from 2009 to 2014.

“All the time, my mind was in this kind of state that I wasn't thinking of any consequences whatsoever; it was just the getting to sleep as fast as I possibly could.

“I knew the gas was on but I was not in a rational kind of a state of mind to comprehend that if I lit a cigarette the gas would go up”.

He told Det Gda Tim O'Sullivan he would now regard his actions as reckless, “but at the time and the way I felt and the urgency I felt towards my life overrode any sort of thought of recklessness or maliciousness or anything like that”.

The jury heard details from written statements from neighbours who experienced the explosion shortly after 6pm on the Sunday evening of the bank holiday weekend.

Paula Higgins said she thought a plane had crashed when the walls of the house started to shake. She looked outside and saw power cable poles had fallen and it looked like a bomb scene from a movie.

Another woman said she heard a loud bang and all the doors of her home slammed shut and the glass in the doors smashed. She said she heard people screaming and saw dust everywhere.

Judge Elma Sheahan thanked the jurors for their time. She also commended the manner in which the case was dealt with by gardaí and the lawyers from both sides.

Earlier she told the jury that they must consider whether Mr Maguire turned his mind to the risks of his actions but disregarded this risk and went on to act with indifference.

Earlier in the trial Brendan Grehan SC, defending, told the jurors that the issue they had to consider was that of recklessness.

“Unless you can be satisfied that before he lit that cigarette he thought about what would happen and he still went ahead and did it, you must acquit,” he told the jury.

Eoin Lawlor BL, prosecuting, said that the case was extraordinarily unfortunate and that the defendant's life was one beset by difficulties.

He said that suicide has affected almost everyone in Ireland but told the jurors they must be dispassionate in their deliberations and leave aside any sympathies or other feelings.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.

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