Judge refuses to allow 'cunning and calculated' murder accused to withdraw guilty plea

Kenneth Cummins
Kenneth Cummins

A judge has described a man he refused to allow withdraw his guilty plea to the murder of a "mentally challenged" 63-year-old man as a "cunning and calculating individual."

Kenneth Cummins (28) with an address at Ringsend Park, Dublin 4, pleaded not guilty to murdering Thomas Horan (63) at Cambridge Court, Ringsend on January 6, 2014.

A post-mortem examination showed that the deceased had head, neck and chest injuries consistent with a severe beating.

Mr Cummins and his sister Sabrina Cummins went on trial last year but four weeks into his Central Criminal Court trial on November 11, Kenneth Cummins changed his plea to guilty.

His sister was handed down a life sentence for the murder of Thomas Horan on November 20 2015 by which time her brother was applying to vacate his guilty plea.

At the time prosecution counsel Mr Remy Farrell SC said this application was "breath taking" and no more than "a stroke" by Mr Cummins.

On March 16 Kenneth Cummin's barrister, Pauline Walley SC, told Mr Justice Hunt that it was a legal issue as to whether the plea should have been taken on the afternoon of November 11 or put off to the next morning.

She noted that the judge was already charging the jury when her client had changed his plea and that his legal team had informed him that a manslaughter verdict was a possibility.

However, contrary to legal advice, Mr Cummins had said that he ‘wanted to get it over with and get out of here’.

She said that Mr Cummins had been complaining of panic attacks, stress and a lack of medical attention at the time and that this was known to the court.

Last month Mr Justice Hunt told the court he was refusing the application and today he "put some flesh on the bare bones" behind that decision.

"The premise I had was that Mr Cummins was in the throws of panic attacks and it was an ill thought out and hasty plea. That premise is not correct, the decision to plead guilty was communicated to counsel shortly after 10.20am that morning," he said.

"He was a difficult and demanding client that changed his instructions before and during the trial," he said.

The court heard that it was not until November 18, eight days after his guilty plea that Mr Cummins asked his lawyers to change his instruction.

The judge said there was no factual basis for this application which was a "nonsense" and "an invention" by Mr Cummins.

"There isn’t anything underlying this except a lot of smoke and hot air. There is no basis at all for this application. And not enough to cause a court to take the extraordinary step to allow someone take
back their plea. I think he is quite a cunning and calculating individual," he said.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt then remanded Mr Cummins in custody until he is sentenced on May 25.

Alison O'Riordan