Thursday 19 July 2018

Woman whose mind 'went blank' when she stabbed partner four times has murder conviction quashed

Paula Farrell from Drogheda
Paula Farrell from Drogheda

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A woman serving life for murder has had her conviction quashed after the Court of Appeal found her jury should have been allowed consider whether she had been provoked by her late partner before killing him.

Paula Farrell (44), with an address at Rathmullen Park, Drogheda, Co Louth had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Wayne McQuillan (30) at her home on January 1, 2014.

The Central Criminal Court heard that Farrell and Mr McQuillan, known as “Quilly”, who was ten years her junior and lived with his parents, had been in a relationship for a year.

The court heard that the couple regularly "overindulged" in drink, particularly on the night in question, and the prosecution’s case was that Farrell stabbed him four times with a kitchen knife.

A Central Criminal Court jury found Farrell guilty of murder after three-and-a-half hours of deliberations and she was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on July 17, 2015.

Farrell had her conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal today over the trial judge’s decision not to allow the partial defence of provocation be considered by the jury. The court ordered a retrial and Farrell was remanded in custody.

Her barrister, Caroline Biggs SC, had submitted that there were only two viable defences available to Farrell, those being diminished responsibility and provocation.

Ms Biggs said the word provoked arose in Farrell’s garda interviews, not necessarily as something to describe what happened but “in a general way”. She had told gardai that the deceased “sometimes provokes me”.

Wayne McQuillan
Wayne McQuillan

In his ruling, the trial judge had said it would be fanciful for the defence of provocation to be triggered by the single phrase used by Farrell in her garda interviews. The trial judge had said he found no rational basis for allowing the defence to be considered by the jury.

However, Ms Biggs submitted that there was a rational basis for allowing the jury to consider it and she outlined a number of evidential matters the jury had heard.

Farrell told a Garda that the deceased had gotten violent with her and another Garda that there had been a physical struggle. She told her daughter that the deceased had attacked her and that she “didn’t mean it”.

In her garda interviews, Farrell set out a number of matters she said happened immediately prior to the stabbing - that the deceased was strangling her, had bit her and banged her head.

This was evidence that amounted to an act or series of acts on the part of the deceased which may have lead the accused to have a sudden and temporary loss of self control, Ms Biggs submitted.

Furthermore, Farrell said her mind "went blank" when she took the knife out of the knife block.

Ms Biggs said her client didn’t use the exact phrase ‘I lost it’ but her mind going blank was very close to suggesting that she was not the master of her own mind at that particular time.

She said Farrell had a history of alcohol induced psychosis and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of alleged sexual abuse by a named individual from the age of seven - which she did not tell anyone about until she was 14 years old.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said the court had come to the overall conclusion that the state of the evidence of the trial was such that the trial judge should have let the issue of provocation go to the jury.

With considerable hesitation, he said, a jury verdict of manslaughter could not necessarily be said to be a perverse verdict.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court would quash Farrell’s conviction and order a retrial.

Farrell, who emotionally embraced a number of supporters in court, was remanded in custody to appear before the Central Criminal Court at a future date.

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