Sunday 21 October 2018

Jury in baby trial 'must be certain of guilt'

Mr Tighe has maintained that he was changing the baby’s nappy, went to the toilet and when he returned Joshua was choking on the tissue. Photo: Collins Courts
Mr Tighe has maintained that he was changing the baby’s nappy, went to the toilet and when he returned Joshua was choking on the tissue. Photo: Collins Courts

Eoin Reynolds

A jury hearing the trial of a father accused of murdering his baby son must be "certain of his guilt" before they can return a guilty verdict, his defence barrister said.

Micheál P O'Higgins SC, for the defence, completed his speech, telling the jurors they cannot convict based on suspicion or likelihood, but that the prosecution's case must be proven beyond reasonable doubt. "In short, you must be certain of his guilt," he told them. Otherwise, they must acquit.

John Tighe (40), of Lavallyroe, Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo, has pleaded not guilty to murdering six-and-a-half-month-old Joshua Sussbier Tighe at his home on June 1, 2013.

It is the prosecution case that baby Joshua choked on a wad of two scrunched up pieces of tissue that was placed in his throat by the accused. Mr Tighe has maintained that he was changing the baby's nappy, went to the toilet and when he returned Joshua was choking on the tissue.

Mr O'Higgins told the jury inconsistencies in his client's accounts, highlighted by the prosecution as indicative of guilt, were inevitable given the confused situation he found himself in.

His client, he said, accepted that he "carelessly" left the child on the changing unit with scrunched-up tissue paper within his reach. Counsel asked: "How many of us have done careless things in life? How many of us can say we have never left a baby unattended?"

He pointed out that expert paediatrician Dr Peter Keenan told the trial a child Joshua's age could have put the wad in his mouth and swallowed it, although not to the point where it was found in Joshua's throat.

In his charge, Justice Patrick McCarthy explained to the jury that there were three verdicts open to them: guilty of murder, not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter, or not guilty. To convict of murder, he said they must be satisfied that he killed Joshua and that when he did so he intended to kill or cause serious injury.

If the jury is satisfied that Joshua was unlawfully killed but the prosecution has failed to prove that Mr Tighe had that intention, they could bring the alternative verdict of manslaughter. If they are not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Tighe killed the child, they must acquit.

Justice McCarthy told the jury he would finish his charge this morning before they began their deliberations.

Irish Independent

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