Man acquitted of his mother's murder by reason of insanity successfully appeals acquittal

Appeal: Paul Henry will now face a retrial
Appeal: Paul Henry will now face a retrial

A Roscommon man acquitted of murdering his mother by reason of insanity last year has successfully appealed his acquittal and now faces a retrial.

Paul Henry (29), who lived with his mother Ann Henry at the time, had pleaded not guilty to her murder at The Spinney, Abbeystown, Roscommon in September 2011.

A jury acquitted Henry of the murder by reason of insanity at a Castlebar sitting of the Central Criminal Court and he was sent to the Central Mental Hospital by Mr Justice Paul Carney on May 7 2014.

Mr Henry had sought a retrial so he could plead and be convicted of manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, thereby incurring a determinative sentence rather than being under an indefinite regime at the Central Mental Hospital possibly for the rest of his life.

The Director of Public Prosecutions sought to have the insanity verdict upheld.

The Court of Appeal first determined that it had jurisdiction to consider the appeal because it is a Constitutional court in contrast to its predecessor. The three-judge court went on to find that there was an “element of misdirection” by the trial judge to the jury.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, ordered a retrial.

The case for retrial will be listed in the Central Criminal Court in two weeks time, the court heard.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan had suggested during counsel's submissions that the outcome for Henry could be substantially different depending on the verdict.

The current outcome had lead to detention in the Central Mental Hospital and treatment on heavy medication whereas a conviction for murder would have lead to a completely different regime in terms of his health.

One might say, Mr Justice Sheehan had suggested, that Henry might have a better life in prison than in the Central Mental Hospital even if he gets a life sentence.

Ruaidhrí Giblin