Friday 22 March 2019

No Supreme Court appeal for Herda

Court rejects bid for further appeal against murder conviction

Marta Herda was convicted of murdering Csaba Orsos, who drowned after she drove her car into Arklow harbour in 2013
Marta Herda was convicted of murdering Csaba Orsos, who drowned after she drove her car into Arklow harbour in 2013

The Supreme Court has refused to hear a further appeal by Polish woman Marta Herda against her conviction for the murder of a man who drowned after she drove her car through a barrier into a deep harbour in Arklow.

Herda, a waitress in her early thirties, of Pairc Na Saile, Emoclew Road, Arklow, knew her passenger Csaba Orsos, whom her trial was told loved her, could not swim when she drove her Volkswagen Passat through crash barriers at South Quay, Arklow, shortly before 6 a.m. on March 26, 2013.

She escaped through the driver's window at the harbour but her colleague's body was found on a nearby beach later that day. A post-mortem found Mr Orsos died from drowning and not from injuries related to the crash.

Herda later pleaded not guilty to the murder of 31-year-old Mr Orsos from Hungary but a jury at the Central Criminal Court convicted her and she was jailed for life in July 2016.

The trial heard the handbrake had been applied before the car entered the water and the only open window was the driver's.

After the Court of Appeal dismissed her appeal against her conviction, her lawyers asked the Supreme Court to hear a further appeal.

In a published determination on Thursday, Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell, Mr Justice William McKechnie and Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan held she had not met the necessary constitutional criteria for an appeal.

She had not raised a point of law of general public importance or established an appeal was necessary in the interests of justice, they held.

Herda's solicitor, the judges noted, had told the court of being contacted by the Polish Ambassador to Ireland, indicating he was considering seeking permission to file a brief submission in support of her application and it was of concern in Poland her conviction involved a miscarriage of justice.

The Supreme Court office had later received a letter from the Ambassador expressing general concerns about the case but not seeking to make submissions as an amicus curiae, assistant to the court on legal issues, the court said.

Consistent with principles of Irish law and the proper administration of the criminal justice system, which require the parties and public are aware of material the court has regard to in coming to any decision, the court said it was satisfied that letter should be disregarded in coming to its conclusion on whether to permit an appeal.

Nothing in the letter could be understood as advancing any issue or affecting the court's consideration beyond what had been already submitted by the parties to the case, it added.

Earlier, the court agreed with the DPP that Herda, in relation to six of her seven categories of arguments, was essentially trying to re-run arguments concerning the trial judge's charge to the jury which had been comprehensively rejected by the Court of Appeal. Herda had failed to show the trial judge's charge to the jury had in any way rendered her trial unsafe and unsatisfactory, it said.

In relation to the other ground, it said a matter of note was occasional references to the lack of an interpreter and confession warnings by the trial judge to the jury.

Herda had queried whether a special direction to the jury was required arising from the fact her first language is not English, and where no interpreter was presented when she had important conversations with nurses in hospital, the meaning of which was challenged. There was also an issue whether an interpreter should have been present during her interview with a garda.

Herda raised no issue at trial about compliance with an EU Directive concerning the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings, the court said. It appeared the Directive would not apply to the conversations with the nurses.

In relation to what she said to the garda, she was not in garda custody at the time and it was clear he considered he was hearing her side of the story. In those circumstances, it was unclear the issue of the Directive truly arose.

It was clear Herda's defence at trial was she did not deliberately drive into the water and her language skills were to blame for any ostensibily incriminating statements she may have made, it said. It was clear to the jury she resiled from the confessions attributed to her and the assessment of this defence, and her language skills, were a 'classic matter' for the jury to consider.

Bray People