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Man applying to withdraw guilty murder plea says he wasn't sophisticated enough to lie about attacks

Kenneth Cummins
Kenneth Cummins

A man applying to withdraw his guilty murder plea on grounds that he was suffering from panic attacks at the time was not sophisticated enough to lie about the attacks, the Central Criminal Court has heard.

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist Paul O’Connell was being cross examined by the State in the case of the 28-year-old, who now wants to change his plea back to not guilty to murdering a ‘mentally challenged’ man.

Kenneth Cummins of Ringsend Park in Dublin had denied murdering Thomas Horan (63) at Cambridge Court, Ringsend on January 6, 2014. 

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

Mr Cummins and his sister, Sabrina Cummins, went on trial last year, but several weeks in he changed his plea to guilty and Mr Justice Tony Hunt dismissed his jury.

His sister was handed down a life sentence for the murder of Thomas Horan a week later, by which time her brother was applying to vacate his guilty plea.

His barrister, Pauline Walley SC, last week told Justice Hunt that it was a legal issue as to whether the plea should have been taken that afternoon 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.

Dr O’Connell testified last week that Mr Cummins had reported having no recollection of his change of plea the following morning.

Mr Cummins had said he had started having panic attacks on the first day of the trial.

The court heard about Mr Cummins’s deprived childhood during which he lived in more than a dozen foster homes and attended several schools.

Asked about his change of plea, he had said that ‘he had done life outside’, thought that he would die young and that his quality of life would be better in prison.

Dr Farrell was cross examined by Remy Farrell SC, for the State, today.

He said that the amnesia claim did not make clinical sense in the context of panic attacks.

“It’s probable he lied about that,” he said.

He said that he was not aware that there had been an application to the court for separate trials for the sister and brother or that Mr Cummins had been described as ‘forensically aware’ during the trial.

Mr Farrell put to the doctor that, if successful in the application to withdraw his plea, he would procure a trial on his own ‘without his sister giving damning evidence against him’.

“I’d be very surprised that Mr Cummins would have that level of sophistication,” he replied, noting psychological assessments of his intellect.

“Where it is a lie about the panic attacks, then it is a sophisticated ruse,” he said.

Under reexamination by Ms Walley, he said that Mr Cummins ‘probably was experiencing panic attacks throughout the trial’.

“I think that the particular vulnerabilities displayed… persuade me that such a sophisticated ruse is unlikely,” he said

Both sides will make their submissions to the court after Easter.