Psychiatrist tells court Kilkenny murder suspect had no 'capacity to form intent'

Shane Smyth
Shane Smyth

A forensic psychiatrist has told a jury that a 29-year-old murder accused suffering from "paranoid schizophrenia" did not have the "capacity to form intent" and "harboured a moral justification for his actions."

Shane Smyth (29) with an address at McGuinness House, Evans Lane, Kilkenny is charged with murdering Mairead Moran (26) on May 8, 2014 at the Market Cross Shopping Centre in Kilkenny City.

On Monday at the Central Criminal Court Mr Smyth pleaded not guilty to murdering Ms Moran by reason of insanity.

The jury has been told that the facts of the case are not disputed and that two consultant psychiatrists prepared reports indicating that Mr Smyth was suffering from a form of psychosis at the time.

Yesterday prosecution counsel Mr John O'Kelly SC called forensic psychiatrist Dr Brenda Wright to take the stand.

She told the court she had prepared a psychiatric court report on behalf of Mr Smyth at the request of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The court heard she was asked to prepare her opinion on a number of matters including Mr Smyth's present condition, his mental state and whether he would have known what he was doing was wrong at the time of the alleged offence.

Dr Wright met Mr Smyth on January 13 and 22 2016 and began by taking a family history from him.

The court heard Mr Smyth has two brothers and one sister and he had not been in contact with his parents for the last ten years.

"He told me his parents had tried to contact him but he did not respond. He said their relationship broke down when his mother accused him of lighting small fires in the house. He liked to look at fire," said Dr Wright.

The court heard his first psychiatric admission to hospital was in 2007 when he said his mother was "evil", she was "taking his powers and could read his thoughts."

Dr Wright noted that Mr Smyth's maternal grandfather had suffered from schizophrenia, while an uncle also had mental health problems.

Mr Smyth was diagnosed with dyslexia in primary school and did not attend school after fourth year because of "drug use."

His employment history included working as a waiter and as a song writer.

The court heard he had considered suicide at the age of 25 and thought of "jumping off a building" but decided not to jump "as fear kicked in."

Dr Wright told the court Mr Smyth had a history of self-harm but without suicidal intent, and that he used to carve things in his arm like pictures.

In 2004 he started to hear voices and in 2005 he attended a psychiatric out patient department.

In 2006 Mr Smyth was admitted as an involuntary patient at the Department of Psychiatry and given a diagnosis of "acute schizophrenic psychotic disorder" upon discharge after two weeks.

In 2009 Mr Smyth's GP said he attended his clinic five times but failed to comply with "applied medication."

The court heard his GP had referred him back to psychiatric services but he did not attend and was discharged.

Concerning his use of intoxicants Dr Wright said Mr Smyth began drinking regularly and started to use cannabis from the age of 13.

Regarding Mr Smyth's relationship history Dr Wright said he had begun a relationship with Mairead Moran when he was 19 years of age and she was 17 years of age.

"He said she appeared on the street one day, they started talking and texting and then met up. The relationship went well except for his paranoia. He said anything and everything made him think she was unfaithful. He said the relationship ended after an argument but she visited him regularly when he was in hospital," said Dr Wright.

The court heard in the months leading up to the attack on Ms Moran, Mr Smyth "became concerned that she was casting a magic spell on him" and he got a "weird feeling when she looked at him."

"He said he believed his apartment was bugged and stuff was repeated back to him by people outside the apartment and he didn’t know why this was happening. He also said he had microchips planted in his hips," said Dr Wright.

The court also heard Mr Smyth said he had found "massive spiders in his apartment" and there was "thick webbing like a jungle under his bed."

Dr Wright said Mr Smyth told her he began carrying a knife as he "needed it for protection."

The court heard Mr Smyth became "more enraged in the months preceding the offence."

The accused was committed to Cloverhill Prison on May 10 2014 and then on May 16 2014 he was admitted to the Central Mental Hospital.

Dr Wright diagnosed Mr Smyth with "paranoid schizophrenia" and said he displayed symptoms including "thought broadcasting", "delusion of control", "delusional perceptions", "persecutory delusions", "thought insertion" and "thought withdrawal."

In her opinion she said the accused's mental illness was not as a result of his drug use but rather his "delusional beliefs" which is a result of paranoid schizophrenia.

Dr Wright told the court Mr Smyth did not have the capacity to form intent because of his mental disorder and did "not understand the nature and quality of his actions at the time."

"He believed Ms Moran was part of a conspiracy and he harboured a moral justification for his action. He believed he was being victimised and his life was in danger and Ms Moran was part of the plot against him. He was unable to refrain from acting like he did," said Dr Wright.

In cross examination Dr Wright told defence counsel Mr Colman Cody SC that his client did not realise he had a mental illness and this can result in a person stopping treatment and refusing to engage with services.

"Its my opinion that Mr Smyth did not understand what he was doing was morally wrong. He might have understood it was legally wrong as he appeared to have harboured a moral justification for his actions such as he was being persecuted," she said.

The court heard that the "severity" of Mr Smyth's illness will require long term treatment in the Central Mental Hospital "to manage the risk he poses to others."

Alison O'Riordan