Friday 24 November 2017

Man jailed for killing ex-fiancée's four-month-old baby brings appeal against conviction for manslaughter

Philip Doyle (38) had initially pleaded not guilty to the murder of baby Ross Murphy
Philip Doyle (38) had initially pleaded not guilty to the murder of baby Ross Murphy

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A man jailed for killing his ex-fiancée's three-and-a-half-month-old baby has brought an appeal against his conviction for manslaughter.

Philip Doyle (38), of Tinakilly, Aughrim, Co Wicklow, had initially pleaded not guilty to the murder of baby Ross Murphy at Creagh Demesne, Gory, Co Wexford, on April 5 2005.

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy had directed the jury to acquit Doyle of murder and to consider a verdict of manslaughter which was returned unanimously by the jury in the Central Criminal Court following a four-week trial.

Doyle was subsequently sentenced to 11 years imprisonment by Mr Justice McCarthy on May 15 2012.

Moving an appeal against conviction in the Court of Appeal today, counsel for Doyle, Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, said the central issue was whether or not what happened to baby Ross was an accident.

The explanation Doyle had given for why all this had happened was that the baby was sick, he was on his own, had panicked and fallen over with the baby in his arms, Mr Ó Lideadha said. There was certain evidence to support that and no evidence to deny it.

He submitted that the fundamentals of the defence's case were not sufficiently conveyed to the jury.

Instead of giving a direction to the jury which could have assisted them in being sceptical of the prosecution's contentions, Mr Ó Lideadha said, the judge failed to direct the jury to the test to be applied on the state of the evidence of the baby's ill health.

He said the judge had not sufficiently explained to the jury why the murder charge against Doyle was withdrawn.

It would have helped his client because the specific intent required to raise manslaughter to murder did not exist - there was no evidence of either the mechanism used or the amount of force used to cause the death of baby Ross.

Mr Ó Lideadha submitted that the reliability of a study on physical abuse cases, referred to in evidence by consultant pediatrician Dr Colm Costigan to support his positive assertion that baby Ross's injuries were caused by abuse trauma, was either not established or insufficiently established to make it admissible.

While accepting its value as a clinical study, Mr Ó Lideadha said it was “junk science” from the forensic and legal point of view of a criminal trial.

Of the 300 cases referred to in the study, Mr Ó Lideadha said, the expert witness did not know how many cases had been ruled upon factually by a court.

Mr Ó Lideahda said the process of criminal justice was in danger of being transformed from a forensic basis to a situation where experts could come into court and express their opinion on matters which are fundamentally at issue in trials.

He further submitted that the judges' various charges to the jury on the various points already raised were inadequate and did not assist the jury from the defence's point of view.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Tom O'Connell SC and Paul Carroll BL, are yet to make replying submissions.

The appeal continues before President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards tomorrow1q.

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