Man cleared to seek compensation for 16 years in prison before conviction for murder of son overturned
Posted on 30th May 2022 at 19:52
Supreme Court rules mentally ill man entitled to certificate of miscarriage of justice
The Supreme Court has cleared the way for a man to seek compensation from the State after spending 16 years in prison before his conviction for the murder of his infant son was overturned at a re-trial by reason of insanity.
The five judge court today unanimously rejected an appeal by the DPP against findings that the case of Yusuf Ali Abdi amounted to a miscarriage of justice.
The miscarriage of justice arose from the prosecution having disputed at Mr Abdi’s original trial in 2003 that he suffered from schizophrenia at the time of his son’s killing in 2001, accepting at his 2019 re-trial that he did suffer from schizophrenia at that time.
The Supreme Court judgment, delivered by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, centred on the consequences of a finding of insanity and the definition of a miscarriage of justice.
Mr Abdi served 16 years in prison before being retried in the Central Criminal Court in late 2019 on a charge of the murder of his 20-month-old son, Nathan Baraka Andrew Ali, in April 2001.
After psychiatrists for the prosecution and defence testified that at the time of the killing Mr Abdi, a native of Somalia with an address at Charleville Road, Phibsboro, Dublin, was suffering from delusions arising from schizophrenia, the jury found him not guilty by reason of insanity.
The jury heard Mr Abdi, who came to Ireland in 1997, suffered a lot of tragedy in Somalia, including witnessing the burnt body of his father who was killed there.
At his first trial in 2003, the prosecution disputed Mr Abdi suffered from schizophrenia at the time of his son’s killing. The jury at that trial returned a verdict of murder which was upheld on appeal.
In the years after his conviction, Mr Abdi was admitted to the Central Mental Hospital a number of times for treatment for mental illness and in 2013 was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
He secured a fresh appeal on grounds of a “newly discovered fact”, that his psychiatric history and presentation in the years after his sentence, and symptoms and signs he exhibited over years which, when his overall psychiatric history was considered, had led to his diagnosis being changed from one of depression and non-psychotic paranoid state to one of paranoid schizophrenia.
Mr Abdi argued he was suffering from schizophrenia at the time of his son’s killing.
After being found not guilty at the re-trial by reason of insanity, he applied for compensation on the basis his initial conviction involved a miscarriage of justice. After the High Court and Court of Appeal found in his favour, the DPP secured an appeal to the Supreme Court.
The DPP argued the State should not be liable to pay compensation where it could not be said a prosecution should never have been brought, where there was no malfunction of the administration of justice and the newly discovered fact was the result of a subsequent medical diagnosis.
Mr Justice Charleton, among various findings, said in cases of diminished responsibility and insanity, the accused must prove their mental state removed the element of the offence and Mr Abdi had proven this.
It is “plainly incorrect” to suggest that an individual, by virtue of their having carried out an action upon which a criminal charge was brought, remains somehow guilty despite acquittal, he said.
Noting that an acquittal generally is not a finding of innocence, but rather a statement the presumption of innocence has not been displaced beyond reasonable doubt, he ruled Mr Abdi’s acquittal at retrial meets the test for a certificate of miscarriage of justice under the Criminal Procedure Act 1993 because of the special finding of insanity.
Failure by the prosecution is not a requirement under the 1993 Act concerning the issuing of a certificate, he said.
An applicant for a certificate must show a miscarriage of justice and that can be shown where there is “a substantial failure of the system to administer justice”.
As criminal liability is founded on the combination of an external element coupled with a mental element, a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity constitutes “a fundamental negation of criminal responsibility”.
The verdict delivered by the jury on re-trial constitutes an acquittal and, on the basis of Mr Abdi’s lack of guilty mind at the time of the death of his son, the verdict demonstrates innocence, he said.
This analysis, he stressed, applies solely in the context of insanity, and not in the context of the defence of diminished responsibility or any other defence.
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