Murder Trial: Court hears Cawley has mental disability

Marisa Reidy

BARRISTERS defending murder accused John Paul Cawley have offered a partial defence of diminished responsibility, arguing that their client should not be held fully criminally liable as he suffers from a mental disability.

Anthony Sammon SC argued that 'although all the ingredients of the crime of murder are there' [that Mr Cawley stabbed the victim numerous times], his actions were substantially diminished because of his disability. He asked that the jury put Mr Cawley's level of liability at manslaughter - to which he pleads guilty - and not murder.

Clinical psychologist, Dr Brian Glanville, told the court that tests conducted on the defendant showed he had an average IQ of 75, which he said showed him to be at the "top end of the a mild learning disability range". His verbal ability was "bottom of that range" he said, adding that just two per cent of the population would have a verbal ability lower than his.

What that meant, he said, was that not only did Mr Cawley have difficulty expressing himself verbally, but it would impact on his capacity to reason and debate. In essence, his ability to comprehend and deal with verbal information would be very limited..

Mr Glanville also told the court that he believed Mr Cawley had a 'borderline personality disorder', which manifests itself as needing other people for emotional support and having a very strong need for connectedness to another significant adult.

Such people, he said, lack a clear sense of their own identity and typically seek the approval, attention and affirmation of others. He added that such a person would also have a very depressive personality and would be pre-occupied with the negative events in his life.

However, prosecution witness, Dr Brenda Wright - Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital - said she did not believe Mr Cawley suffered from a mental disability or personality disorder at the time of the killing. She said instead that chronic alcohol addiction was her primary diagnosis.

She explained that Mr Cawley's history of alcohol abuse would have contributed significantly to some of his behaviour and that many of the traits outlined in Mr Glanville's report, suggesting a personality disorder, would overlap in a person with serious alcohol dependency issues.

These, she told the court, included impulsive behaviour, self harming and depressive traits, adding that alcohol is a known depressant.

State Prosecutor, Conor Devalley, questioned what link there was to a low IQ and continuing in the act of kidnapping and finally killing Mr de Sousa.

'Being soft,' he said, was not an excuse for not being able to get himself out of the situation if he so wished.


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