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Man who dismissed legal team has murder conviction quashed on appeal

Tadhg Butler
Tadhg Butler

A man who dismissed a team of lawyers during his trial for murder, and recalled his own nephew to cross-examine him himself, has had his conviction quashed on appeal.

Tadhg Butler (36), with an address at Seafield in Tramore, Co Waterford but originally from Kilkenny had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to the murder of Michael O'Dwyer (25) at that address on January 10, 2014.

Butler dismissed his legal team on day six of his trial for murder and recalled his nephew, Mr Anthony O'Grady, which saw a “radically different version of events put to him” by Butler compared to what had been put to him earlier by Butler's lawyers.

The latter version alleged that Butler had accidentally stabbed the deceased when struggling to take a knife of Mr O'Grady - a suggestion which was vehemently denied by Mr O'Grady.

Butler was unanimously found guilty of murder by a Central Criminal Court jury after two hours and 26 minutes of deliberations and he was given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on May 15, 2015.

He successfully appealed his conviction today with the Court of Appeal holding that the trial judge ought to have advised him that the new version of events he put to his nephew in the witness box could not have been considered by the jury without hearing sworn evidence in relation to it.

Giving judgment in the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the trial judge was entitled to use his discretion to insist the trial should continue in the interests of justice at a time when the prosecution's case had almost closed. The decision to force Butler's hand in this way did not result in the his trial becoming unfair.

However, there was an onus on the trial judge, “over and above that which is present when an accused is legally represented, to ensure, as far as reasonably practicably possible” that the accused would not take any step which might weaken any line of defence he had clearly adopted.

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