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Trial verdict Deirdre Morley found not guilty of murdering her 3 children by reason of insanity

Ms Morley was accused of murdering her sons Conor McGinley (9) and Darragh McGinley (7) and daughter Carla McGinley (3) on January 24 last year.

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Deirdre Morley and Andrew McGinley pictured with their children Conor, Darragh and Carla

Deirdre Morley and Andrew McGinley pictured with their children Conor, Darragh and Carla

Deirdre Morley and Andrew McGinley pictured with their children Conor, Darragh and Carla

Nurse Deirdre Morley has been found not guilty of murdering her three children by reason of insanity on all counts.

The jury returned a verdict at 3.45pm after deliberating for four hours and 23 minutes.

The registrar asked them had they reached a verdict on which at least 10 of the 12 jurors agreed, to which the foreman replied 'Yes'.

He then confirmed verdicts of not guilty by reason of insanity in respect of the three counts on the indictment.

The court heard it was not customary for a breakdown of the verdict reached by the jury in the case of acquittals.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey told the jury he wished to thank the jury on behalf of the people of Ireland and excused them from jury duty for 15 years.

"I am aware that this has been a very distressing case for everyone involved," the judge said.

"It was heartbreaking and it must have had an effect on everyone of you."

The court heard that under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 the judge was obligated to commit Ms Morley to a designated centre, in this case the Central Mental Hospital. Under the law Ms Morley must now be reviewed by a consultant psychiatrist to determine her future care.

He adjourned proceedings until May 31 to allow for a report on Ms Morley to be furnished to the court.

Earlier, the they were told by the judge both the prosecution and the defence agreed a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity is the appropriate verdict for them to come to.

The comments were made by Mr Justice Paul Coffey after the jury had sought clarity on the three criteria under which it is possible to return such a verdict.

The jury had deliberated in the case for an hour and 28 minutes yesterday before informing the judge they had the query.

He allowed them go home for the night and addressed the question this morning at the Central Criminal Court.

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Ms Morley (44) was accused of murdering her sons Conor McGinley (9) and Darragh McGinley (7) and daughter Carla McGinley (3) on January 24 last year.

Their bodies were discovered at the family home at Parson’s Court, Newcastle, Co Dublin by their father Andrew McGinley that evening.

Ms Morley pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Her two-day trial heard she had a long history of depression and her condition escalated to delusion and psychosis by the time she killed the children.

Mr Justice Coffey said the jury must be satisfied that at the time of the offence Ms Morley was suffering from a mental disorder such that she should not be held responsible for the deaths of the children.

He said that for this finding to be made they had to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities of at least one of the following things.

That she did not know the nature and quality of what she was doing, that she did not know what she was doing was wrong, or that she was unable to refrain from the acts.

“It is important to note these grounds are alternative, not cumulative. Compliance with any of the grounds is sufficient for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity,” the judge said.

Mr Justice Coffey said a witness for the defence, consultant psychiatrist Dr Brenda Wright, had testified Ms Morley was suffering from a mental disorder known as bipolar effective disorder type two.

He said that in her view Ms Morley qualified for a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity on two of the criteria.

“Namely that she did not know what she was doing was wrong and secondly that she could not refrain from doing it,” Mr Justice Coffey said.

He told the jury of ten men and two women the prosecution had not cross-examined Dr Wright or sought to contradict her evidence.

The judge said the prosecution had called Dr Mary Davoren, another consultant psychiatrist, who corroborated the evidence of Dr Wright.

“The doctors are unanimous in their view she was legally insane when she smothered and killed her three children,” he said.

The judge continued: “This is not a case where the prosecution seeks a finding of murder on any count.”

He said both the prosecution and defence agree a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity is appropriate.

Ms Morley’s trial heard she admitted to smothering the children using sticky tape, plastic bags and cushions while their father was away for the day on a work assignment.

She had planned on taking her own life too but passed out from medication and alcohol before she could.

Ms Morley, who had a long history of depression, later told gardaí she killed the children as she believed they had been damaged as a result of her mental illness and had no future.

There was considerable evidence Ms Morley was suffering from a mental disorder at the time and delusional.

Before they went out to deliberate, Mr Justice Coffey told the jurors: “In this sad and tragic case there is no contest as to what the correct verdict should be. The evidence is all one way.”

The judge told them they had taken an oath to come to a verdict in accordance with the evidence.

Following evidence from the psychiatrists, Ms Morley’s counsel, Michael Bowman SC, told the jury the case was “a tragedy of enormous proportion” and they had heard of the extent of the guilt and loss Ms Morley felt.

He also said the loss and the pain for her husband and members of their families was “unimaginable” and they had carried themselves with great dignity.

Mr Bowman said the irony of the case was the Ms Morley was a paediatric nurse whose entire professional life was spent caring for children.

He said there had been evidence of how she had suffered from depression and anxiety even in her student years and this deteriorated over time to the extent that in July 2019 she required inpatient treatment.

Mr Bowman said the level of assistance she received from family and friends and the medical interventions she had received could not stop her from “slipping into delusion and psychosis in January 2020”.

He said the depth of that depression only became fully evident after the tragic events of January 24, 2020.

Dr Wright interviewed Ms Morley on three occasions at the Central Mental Hospital following the killing of her three children.

Under questioning from Mr Bowman, Dr Wright said in her view Ms Morley knew the nature and quality of her acts and knew they would result in the deaths of her three children.

“However, in my view, as a result of her disorder she did not know they were wrong,” Dr Wright said.

She said Ms Morley believed she had caused irreparable damage to her children through bad parenting.

She told Mr Bowman that Ms Morley met the criteria for a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity.

The consultant psychiatrist said Ms Morley “believed her actions were morally right”.

“She believed she had damaged her children and had to end their lives,” Dr Wright said.

“She was unable to refrain from her actions.”

Dr Wright said Ms Morley’s thinking and judgment were “impaired to the extent she could not think of an alternative” to killing her children.

The court heard a considerable amount of evidence about Ms Morley’s medical history.

This involved recurrent bouts of depressions, leading to her to having breaks from work or having to work part-time.

A significant escalation occurred from July 2019, when she was admitted for a short period to St Patrick’s Hospital.

Dr Wright interviewed Ms Morley on three occasion in September and October 2020 and also had access to files on her medical history.

She told the court that in her view, Ms Morley’s illness at the time of the offences was “severe” and the intensity of her symptoms became unmanageable.

Dr Wright said Ms Morley developed delusions. These were “false fixed beliefs” about her children and her performance as parent and that she was not amenable to reason.

The consultant psychiatrist said someone with these issues cannot be dissuaded from their delusion.

She said that despite the fact Ms Morley was reassured about her parenting, she could not take that on board and maintained feelings of “personal inadequacy, worthlessness and guilty”.

Dr Wright said she developed feelings of being overwhelmed, inadequacy in her role as a parent and wife and concerns her mental health was impacting on her children.

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