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10 Aug 2022

Person charged with offence not automatically entitled to give version of events to gardai before trial court rules

Acquittal of a man in midlands trial appealed

court

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a person charged with an offence is not automatically entitled to give their version of events in custody to gardai before going to trial.

The question arose out of the trial of a man at Longford Circuit Criminal Court who was charged with endangerment of pedestrians arising from driving offences committed in December 2016.

At his trial, the man's lawyers submitted that, by not interviewing their client, gardai "had complete disregard of the rules of law".

It was argued that the failure to question the man in custody was “a right that has been violated in not affording him the opportunity to give his version or account of the facts”.

The trial judge directed the accused man be acquitted, saying: "The accused has been deprived of the opportunity of having a memo of interview that can be given to the jury to get his version of events. In other words, he's being forced into giving evidence, if he's to put his defence forward." The judge said that all accused people have a right to fair procedure and a right not to give evidence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently queried the judge's decision to the Court of Appeal under the Criminal Procedure Act 1967.

In a ruling delivered today the President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, sitting with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the judge was, "in error in deciding to withdraw the case from the jury."

He said: "It was open to the accused to respond when charged and cautioned. It was open to him to submit an account of events at any stage, if he wished to do so, and to argue at trial for the admissibility of that account. It was open to him to participate in the trial and to put forward his version of events by way of cross-examination and/or by giving evidence."

Mr Justice Birmingham added that the man had "no entitlement to be detained and questioned, and no entitlement to put forward a version of events which would be immune from challenge or interrogation."

He concluded: "The judge was not correct in law in directing the jury to return a verdict of not guilty."

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