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Attorney-general for Northern Ireland Vs. Gallagher - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtHouse of Lords
Decided On
Case NumberNo.
Judge
AppellantAttorney-general for Northern Ireland
RespondentGallagher
Excerpt:
lord reid my lords, the respondent, patrick gallagher, was convicted at belfast of die murder of his wife on 7th september. 1960. there is no doubt that he killed her. the defence was insanity or alternatively that he was so drunk when he killed her as to be incapable of having any intent to kill her or do her grievous bodily harm. so there was no room for a verdict of not guilty: if the defence had been successful the verdict would have been guilty but insane or manslaughter. the respondent appealed to the court of criminal appeal of northern ireland on the ground of misdirection of the jury by the trial judge, lord macdermott, l.c.j. that court held that there had been misdirection and that the verdict of murder could not stand: they further held that in the circumstances they could not.....
Judgment:

Lord Reid

My lords,

The Respondent, Patrick Gallagher, was convicted at Belfast of die murder of his wife on 7th September. 1960. There is no doubt that he killed her. The defence was insanity or alternatively that he was so drunk when he killed her as to be incapable of having any intent to kill her or do her grievous bodily harm. So there was no room for a verdict of not guilty: if the defence had been successful the verdict would have been guilty but insane or manslaughter.

The Respondent appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeal of Northern Ireland on the ground of misdirection of the jury by the trial judge, Lord MacDermott, L.C.J. That Court held that there had been misdirection and that the verdict of murder could not stand: they further held that in the circumstances they could not substitute either a verdict of guilty but insane or a verdict of manslaughter. They therefore directed a verdict of acquittal to be entered.

The Attorney-General for Northern Ireland 'thereupon applied under the provisions of the Administration of Justice Act, 1960, for a certificate that a point of law of general public importance was involved and for leave to appeal to this House. The Court granted a certificate but refused leave to appeal. Leave to appeal was later given by this House;

Before coming to the certificate I must set out the facts so far as they are necessary for its consideration. The Respondent had frequently used violence towards his wife, generally after taking drink. The medical evidence about his mental condition was conflicting but there was evidence that he is an aggressive psychopath, that this is a disease of the mind which is quiescent for considerable periods but manifests itself from time to time in explosive outbursts, and that taking drink is likely to cause an outburst. For some time before 7th September, 1960, the Respondent had been in a mental hospital. On that date he was allowed to go to Omagh. There he bought a knife and a bottle of whisky. He was seen cycling towards his home and two hours later he entered a neighbour's house under the influence of alcohol and said he had killed his wife. She was found dead, having sustained extensive and brutal injuries from the knife and a hammer. The Respondent had drunk the greater part of the bottle of whisky either before or after the killing or both.

I can now come to the certificate. The Court certified that the following point of law of general public importance was involved in the said decision :—

Whether a person in a psychopathic condition which is quiescent may become insane (within the meaning of the rules in M'Naghten's case 10 Cl. and F. 200) as the result of the voluntary consumption by him of intoxicating liquor, if the effect of that intoxicating liquor is to bring about an explosive outburst in the course of a mental disease although the disease was not itself caused by intoxicating liquor.'

One of the Appellant's arguments submitted to the Court of Criminal Appeal and to this House was that, even if at the moment of killing his wife the Respondent was incapable of knowing the nature and quality of his act or knowing that he was doing wrong, and even if that was a consequence or manifestation of his mental disease—of his being a psychopath liable to explosive outbursts—yet the defence of insanity was not open to him because before taking the drink—when there was no defect in his reason—he had clearly evinced an intention to kill his wife and any temporary derangement of his reason at the time of the killing was the result of his own voluntary act in taking the drink.

In my opinion this is the point and the only point of law raised by the certificate. It is, T think, assumed in the certificate that during an explosive outburst the person's reason is dethroned to the extent required by the  'Naghten rules. Whether that assumption was justifiable on the evidence may be questionable, but the argument before the Court of Criminal Appeal appears to have proceeded on the footing that there was just sufficient evidence to entitle a jury to come to 'hat conclusion if so minded.

The first argument submitted by Counsel for the Respondent was that under the provisions of the 1960 Act this House had no power or jurisdiction to decide any question beyond that set out in the certificate. If a decision of that question is sufficient to dispose of the whole case, then this House can do that but not otherwise. Counsel then submitted that no matter how the question of law in the certificate is dealt with, that cannot lead to substituting another verdict for the verdict of acquittal entered by the Court to Criminal Appeal. This must, I think, have been the view of that Court because the ground on which they refused to grant leave to appeal to this House was that in the opinion of this Court a ruling on this point of law in favour of the Crown's contention would not lead to a reversal of the decision of this Court.

That argument depends on the proper construction of section 1 of the Administration of Justice Act. 1960. which is in the following terms: —

1.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, an appeal shall lie to the House of Lords, at the instance of the defendant or the prosecutor.—

(a) from any decision of a Divisional Court of the Queen's Bench Division in a criminal cause or matter ;

(b) from any decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal on an appeal to that court.

(2) No appeal shall lie under this section except with the leave of the court below or of the House of Lords; and such leave shall not be granted unless it is certified by the court below that a point of law of general public importance is involved in the decision and it appears to that court or to the House of Lords, as the case may be, that the point is one which ought to be considered by that House.

(3) Section five of the Appellate Jurisdiction Act, 1876 (which regulates the composition of the House of Lords for the hearing and determination of appeals) shall apply to the hearing and determination of an appeal or application for leave to appeal under this section, as it applies to the hearing and determination of an appeal under that Act; and any order of that House which provides for the hearing of such applications by a committee constituted in accordance with the said section five may direct that the decision of that committee shall be taken on behalf of the House.

(4) For the purpose of disposing of an appeal under this section the House of Lords may exercise any powers of the court below or may remit the case to that court.

(5) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, ' leave to appeal' means leave to appeal to the House of Lords under this section."

Subsection (1) allows an appeal from a decision of the court below, and subsection (4) authorises this House in disposing of the appeal to exercise any powers of the court below. So far there is nothing to suggest that the powers and duties of this House in this matter are different from or more limited than its powers and duties in ordinary appeals.

The difficulty arises from subsection (2) which limits the grounds on which leave to appeal can be granted. First there must be a certificate by the court below that a point of law of general public importance is involved in the decision, that is, in the decision of the court below. And then comes the provision which causes the difficulty: before the court below or this House can grant leave it must appear that the point is one which ought to be considered " by this House.

Taken by themselves these last words might seem to indicate that all that this House is to do is to consider (which must include deciding) the point of law. But that cannot be right because there would then be no reason for authorising this House to exercise any powers of the court below. Moreover, a limited consultative jurisdiction of this kind would be a novelty in United Kingdom procedure, and if that were all that this House can do, the procedure could hardly be called an appeal from the decision of the court below. The point of law is not 'the decision— it is only involved in the decision. The decision in (the present case was the substitution of a verdict of acquittal for the verdict of murder, and that is the decision from which the present appeal lies. The point certified by the Court of Criminal Appeal is certified by them as having been involved in the decision.

To make the issue clearer let me suppose a case where the respondent in this House argued two points in the court below either of which if right entitled him to succeed. The court below having decided one in his favour might well say it was unnecessary to consider the second. Then, the first point having been certified, this House holds that the court below was wrong. What is then to happen? It cannot reasonably be supposed that Parliament intended that the respondent is to have no opportunity of having his second point considered so that his conviction must stand. So it must either be considered by this House or by the court below. It is true that subsection (4) authorises a remit to that court but that is only for the purpose of disposing of the appeal to this House. I can find nothing to authorise a remit to the court below directing it to reopen and rehear the case and come to a fresh decision. So in that case at least this House must go beyond the point certified and hear and decide the second point which may have no connection at all with the first.

If in such a case this House must exercise the whole of its ordinary functions on appeal, what is there to show that in some other class of case it is not to do so? The Respondent points to the contrast between the language of section 1 (2) of the 1960 Act and the language of section 6 (1) of the Criminal Appeal (Northern Ireland) Act, 1930 (which is the same as in the corresponding English Act). Under the latter the Attorney-General had to certify that it is desirable in the public interest that a further appeal should be brought : under the 1960 Act it must appear "that the point is one which ought to be considered by that House: under the old procedure it was decided in Milne and Others v. Commissioner of Police for City of London [1940] A.C. 1, that it was open to the Appellant to take any point before this House, and the argument is that the change of language in the 1960 Act clearly shows an intention to alter this.

In my judgment the change of language can properly be regarded as indicating an intention to make some alteration but the question remains— What was the alteration which was intended? In deciding that well settled principles require us to go to the words of the new Act, we can have in mind the circumstances when the Act was passed and the mischief which then existed so far as these are common knowledge, but we can only use these matters as an aid to the construction of the words which Parliament has used. We cannot encroach on its legislative function by reading in some limitation which we may 'think was probably intended but which cannot be inferred from the words of the Act.

If I had to consider the provisions of subsection (2) without reference to the earlier law I would have no doubt that the purpose of subsection (2) is merely to define the conditions which must be satisfied before leave can be given and that once leave has been given its purpose is spent. The court below must certify that a point of law of general public importance is involved: then leave is not to be granted unless further it appears, or is thought by that court or this House in deciding whether to give leave, that that point isone which ought to be considered by this House. I would not infer a prohibition against this House considering anything else but that point, and I would find no basis for an inference that this House is permitted to consider some further points but not others which it could normally consider in an ordinary appeal.

It is familiar and well known that one thing which this House considers in deciding whether to give leave in a civil case is whether the case involves a point of law which ought to be considered by this House. But once leave is given this House can and does consider other points as well. Sub-section (2) could well mean that, whereas in civil cases the existence of such a point is only one element, though an important element, in deciding whether to give leave, in criminal cases it is an indispensable element. There was no such indispensable element under the former law: so far as its language went the Attorney-General could have acted on any ground that seemed sufficient to him to warrant a certificate that it was desirable in the public interest that a further appeal should be brought. Of course, I do not say that this was the reason for the change of language. I only say that it is not an inevitable inference from the change of language that it must have been intended to limit the scope of the appeal once leave had been given.

As the proper construction of this section raises a new and important issue I do not wish to go further than is necessary to decide this case. Others regarding it in light of different facts may be more successful than I have been in finding in the terms of the section some basis for an implication that in hearing an appeal under it the powers of this House are in some way limited. This is a case in which the question of law certified and the question whether there was misdirection are not entirely unrelated. They are different questions because, even if I agree with the view of the Court of Criminal Appeal on the question of law certified—and I do agree with what I understand to be their view—I can still hold that there was no mis-direction. So a decision that there was no misdirection is in no way merely consequential on a decision on the point of law certified. It is therefore necessary for me to hold, as I do, that the section does not limit this House to the question certified and matters consequential on its decision of that question. But I do not have to decide whether it is open to an appellant to raise matters wholly unrelated to the question certified.

On the question of misdirection, I have had an opportunity of reading the speech about to be delivered by my noble and learned friend Lord Tucker. I agree with it, and in particular I wish to add that I entirely agree with his view that absurd and disastrous consequences can result from the present limitation of the powers of the Courts of Criminal Appeal. Accordingly I move your Lordships that this appeal should be allowed and the verdict of murder restored.

Lord Goddard

My lords,

In my opinion this appeal should be allowed and the verdict and sentence passed at the trial restored. I have had an opportunity of reading the Opinion about to be delivered by my noble and learned friend Lord Tucker, who has fully and carefully analysed the medical evidence, and I agree with his conclusions. I would, however, say that, despite the somewhat guarded admission of the Attorney-General before the Court of Criminal Appeal, there was not, in my opinion, any evidence of insanity : at the most, evidence only of self-imposed drunkenness. I will assume the Respondent was an aggressive psychopath but no one suggested that such a condition of itself amounted to insanity. I will assume that on one who suffers from that mental condition alcohol can have an explosive effect. This means no more than that drink would, or at most might, result in a loss of self-control. But to admit that as a defence would be to allow self-imposed intoxication to be set up as a defence of insanity, a proposition which was emphatically negatived by this House in Beard's case. Moreover, there was no evidence whether the accused consumed the whisky before or after he attacked his wife. No one suggested that at the time of his trial he was insane ; he gave a reasonably coherent account of what he had done and why he did it directly or very soon after the killing, but he gave no evidence at his trial and has never suggested that he did not know what he was doing when he killed his wife. In my opinion there was no misdirection by the Lord Chief Justice; it was most 'important to consider what the mental state of this man was when he set out in the morning to visit his wife, and equally important to consider his condition after he had killed her. When a defence of insanity is raised there is seldom evidence of witnesses who saw the killing; it has to be inferred in so many cases from the history of the accused before and after the actual deed. The defence could only rely on the evidence of Dr. Dawson, who to his credit was careful to emphasise that he could not be positive. In my opinion his evidence does not support the onus which was on the accused to establish insanity.

The other matter which was argued on the appeal, whether this House is confined merely to answering the question submitted as one of general public importance has, I admit, caused me some difficulty. Reading subsection (2) of section I alone would seem to support the view that the House is confined to a consideration of the point certified by the court below. But subsection (2) requires the House to dispose of the appeal and enables it to exercise any powers of the court below. It may well 'be in many cases that the answer to the specific question will dispose of the appeal, as in the case of the appeal recently before the House where the question submitted was whether there is still such an offence as misprision of felony. An answer in the affirmative upheld the decision of the trial court and no further question arose or could arise. But for the reasons given by my noble and learned friend Lord Reid it is clear that this may not be always the case, yet the House must dispose not merely of the question certified but of the appeal and if to enable this to be done it becomes necessary to consider other matters, in my opinion they must have power to do so.

I would add that this case affords a striking illustration of what may result from the Court of Criminal Appeal in Northern Ireland, as in England, having no power to order a new trial in an appropriate case. Had it not been possible for the Court to certify that a point of law of general importance arose in the case and for this House to hold it was fit for their consideration, a man who had brutally murdered his wife and whom a jury had declined to rind was insane would have had to be sot at liberty free of any consequence of his crime.

Lord Tucker

My lords,

I agree that once the Court from which the appeal is brought has certified that a point of law of general public importance is involved in the decision, and leave to appeal has been given, either by that Court, or this House, the jurisdiction of this House to hear the appeal is established, and there is nothing in the Administration of Justice Act, 1960, in any way limiting its jurisdiction. It will always be a matter for the exercise of its discretion whether to allow a point in no way connected with the certified point of law to be argued on the appeal, and it is not to be assumed from the decision in this case that an appellant can as a matter of right raise any such point. In the present case I consider the point certified of necessity requires an examination of the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal, and when this decision is looked at it becomes clear that in order to dispose of the appeal the direction of the Lord Chief Justice to the jury on the law with regard to the defence of insanity, as applied to the evidence given at the trial, must be considered.

The appeal is brought by the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland under the provisions of sections 1 and 2 of the Administration of Justice Act, 1960, against the order of the Court of Criminal Appeal in Northern Ireland dated 5th April, 1961, whereby it was ordered that the Respondent's appeal from his conviction for murder be allowed and judgment and verdict of acquittal be entered on the indictment whereon he was convicted.

That the Respondent killed his wife is beyond all question and in the Court of Criminal Appeal and in this House it was common ground that the only possible verdicts were (1) guilty of murder: (2) guilty of man-slaughter : (3) guilty but insane. A verdict of acquittal, that is, not guilty, is the one verdict which no reasonable jury could have returned, yet this is the verdict which the Court of Criminal Appeal has directed to be entered on the indictment. This involves no criticism of the Court of Criminal Appeal, but serves to expose the absurd and disastrous consequences which may result from the restrictions which Parliament has imposed upon the powers of the courts of criminal appeal in Northern Ireland and in England. The language of the relevant statutes is identical and does not in any case permit an order for a new trial nor, in a case such as the present, give the court any discretionary powers with regard to verdict or sentence.

At the trial before the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland and a jury at the winter assizes in Belfast from the 30th January to 4th February. 1961, the Respondent was indicted for the murder of his wife Rose Gallagher on 7th September, 1960. He pleaded not guilty, and, though, of course, no admission was or could be made, there was no attempt to challenge the evidence of the prosecution to the effect that the Respondent killed his wife. The defence relied upon was that he was insane at the time within the meaning of the M'Naghten Rules or in the alternative was by reason of drink incapable of forming the intent necessary to constitute murder and therefore guilty only of manslaughter. The defence of diminished responsibility is not available in Northern Ireland. The following is an outline of the facts proved by the uncontradicted evidence of witnesses or from admissions made by the Respondent in statements to police or other persons.

The Respondent and his wife had been married for about 16 years during which time there were frequent quarrels, generally when he had taken drink, and on occasions he used violence towards her. In 1957 she obtained a separation order against him and he went to England. He was injured at work there and in 1959 returned to Ireland and lived again with his wife and family near Omagh. His drinking habits increased and there were further quarrels. On 26th May, 1960. there was a serious quarrel. A doctor was sent for who persuaded him to go for treatment to a mental hospital in Omagh, where he was admitted as a temporary patient. On 8th June he was allowed to go home on a 90-day trial. He again started drinking and assaulted his wife. On 19th July she refused to let him in and he went to his father's house. The doctor (Lagan) visited him there and arranged for his readmission to the mental hospital. By mid-August his condition had improved and he was allowed to go into Omagh. On 15th of that month his wife obtained an order for maintenance against him for £3 a week. On 6th September he was seen by Dr. Gray at the hospital, when he appeared to be cheerful and perfectly normal. On 7th September Mrs. Gallagher was alone in the house after the children left for school. At 9.45 the Respondent left the hospital and went into Omagh where he bought a Skyline knife. He then entered a public house where he bought a bottle of Guinness and a bottle of Power's whisky. Shortly after this he was seen riding a cycle along a road which was one of the routes leading to his wife's house to reach which would take him about half an hour. At 1.30 p.m. Miss Aitken and Mrs. Speers, who lived next door to Mrs. Gallagher, heard a noise and saw the Respondent collapsing on the kitchen floor. He had blood on his clothes and hands and was drunk. They threw water on him. When he had recovered they asked him what had happened to him. He said he had killed his wife. One of them said Oh, no, you didn't, and he replied: Come round and see. They went to the house and found

Mrs. Gallagher's body in the bed covered with bed clothes up to her neck and blood on the floor. They took the Respondent back to their house, locked the door of Mrs. Gallagher's house and sent for the police.

When the police arrived they found Mrs. Gallagher's body naked except for a pair of shoes. There were terrible injuries to her head and body. The head and face were covered in blood and the sheets saturated. A Sky-line knife with a seven-inch blade stained with blood to the hilt was found in the room. On the floor beneath the bed was an old hammer the head of which was stained with blood. On the chest of drawers was a bottle of Power's whisky containing about two glasses. There were blood stains on the cellophane with which the bottle was wrapped. At about 4.15 p.m. the Respondent at Omagh Police Station said to Sergeant Coyle: I have no regrets: she gave me a hell of a life these past three years. Later, after caution, he said: I made up my mind to kill her about a fortnight or three weeks ago.

Shortly after 7 p.m. he said: I am going to open up my mind to you. He was told: You don't have to and again cautioned. He said: I will tell you all. I left hospital this morning about half past nine on parole given to me by Dr. Johnston. I went into Wellworth's and bought a knife at five and three and a bottle of aspirins. After I had killed my wife I was going to do myself in by first taking the aspirins to deaden the pain and then use the knife on myself. I went into Yarrow's pub in Bridge Street and drank a bottle of ' Guinness' and bought a bottle of whisky for £2. I went out on the bicycle and hid it. You fellows will have bother getting it. I went into the house at almost half past eleven and the wife was on her own. I asked her to take me back but she wouldn't. I then drank half of the whisky.

The medical evidence showed that sexual intercourse had taken place which could have occurred at any time from a day or two before death until after death.

My Lords, I have found it necessary to set out this evidence in some detail as it will be observed that nowhere does the Respondent suggest that at any time he did not know the nature and quality of the act which he did or that he did not know it was wrong. Nor does he ever say he was drunk when he did it or show any regret for that which he had done. He gave no evidence at his trial. None-the-less the defence was that he was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it. That he did not know what he was doing was wrong. It was sought to establish this defence by expert medical evidence directed to prove that the Respondent is what is called a psychopath the characteristics of which are "emotional immaturity and instability; they live in themselves and lack social sense ; they tend to yield to their instincts readily and lack self-control. There are different types of psychopaths and the Respondent is said to be of the aggressive type. i.e. one who with provocation or on taking alcohol is apt to have a severe aggressive reaction or emotional outburst which may result in loss of control.

Some of the medical witnesses for the prosecution had found no signs of psychopathy in the Respondent, but they were all prepared to agree either that he was probably a psychopath or that he might possibly be one. One witness thought he was probably an inadequate psychopath rather than an aggressive psychopath, but the vital difference between the expert medical witnesses for the prosecution and Dr. Dawson for the defence was whether a man suffering from this type of disease of the mind, when he has one of these emotional outbursts, does or does not know the nature and quality of his acts or, assuming such acts to be criminal, that they are wrong. The prosecution's evidence was that this type of disease of the mind merely produces lack of self-control and does not impair a man's appreciation of the nature of his acts or knowledge that they are wrong. Dr. Dawson for the defence was not prepared to say positively that such a disease does produce this result but expressed a doubt whether a man suffering from this disease would, in one of these outbursts, know the nature of his acts or that they were wrong. Assuming for the moment that such a doubt, if accepted by the jury in preference to the positive assertions to the contrary by the prosecution witnesses, would suffice to establish the defence, the fact remains that if the jury rejected the defence evidence as to the nature of the mental disease and accepted the evidence for the prosecution that the Respondent was never suffering from a disease of the mind which would produce anything more than lack of control, the defence would fail in limine. The defence have not shown that the disease of the mind proved is of the kind which will produce the required results from their point of view. It was, I think, with this in mind that the Lord Chief Justice, having regard to the nature of the evidence, focussed the attention of the jury on the Respondent's mental condition at 9.30 a.m. when he left the hospital. Assuming he was then an aggressive psychopath likely to have an explosive outburst under certain circumstances, would such outburst produce nothing more than lack of self-control? If so he would for present purposes be regarded as a normal being responsible in law for his actions who could not improve his case by the consumption of alcohol, unless such alcohol brought about some quite different type of disease such as delirium tremens, of which there was no evidence in the present case.

It may be convenient, before turning to the summing-up which the Court of Criminal Appeal have held to contain misdirections, to refer quite shortly to a few passages in the evidence of the medical witnesses which summarise the effect of their evidence. The evidence of these witnesses was dealt with by the Lord Chief Justice in his summing-up in detail and it is not suggested that he did not place before the jury a clear and accurate assessment of its effect.

The evidence of Dr. Lagan, who is not a mental expert, was summarized by the Lord Chief Justice as follows: —

Now his evidence would seem to me to amount, in general words, to this: That this man is a man who has been subject to violence for no apparent reason; he's liable to something that might be called a brainstorm ; and Dr. Lagan added that he thought that he would have little knowledge of what he was doing at the time. He added that he was always sorry afterwards ; and it's quite obvious from the doctor's evidence as to the position on earlier occasions . . . that he regarded him as mental—at least in some degree—not just a drunkard, but a man mental' in some degree.

Dr. Gray had had long experience in mental institutions. He first saw the Respondent on 26th May, 1960. He found him mildly depressed, quite rational and rather emotional. He subsequently saw him quite often and found no signs of mental abnormality. In cross-examination he said: He possibly is a man of an aggressive psychopathic personality. He added: In my opinion leaving out of account any question of alcohol, the accused would have known what he was doing when he struck these blows. If he knew what he was doing, he would have known that it was wrong. He added that he had never seen him in a violent state and couldn't say what his condition would be when committing violence.

Dr. Johnston was the Resident Medical Superintendent of the mental hospital in Omagh. He saw the Respondent at irregular intervals in the course of his routine work. He had allowed him out on parole and at that time saw no evidence of mental defect. In cross-examination he agreed that he was probably or possibly a psychopath. His intellectual age would be about nine or ten. The maximum in this scale being fifteen. He said his experience of an aggressive psychopath was that they are clear as to what happened during the outburst. He added that if a psychopath was under the influence of drink it would be more probable that his appreciation of what he was doing would be more limited. He concluded: Knowing this man and having heard the circumstances of this case and assuming he did these things to his wife, my opinion is that he knew what he was doing; in my opinion he knew what he was doing was wrong. It may be convenient to refer at once to the passage in the summing-up which followed the Lord Chief Justice's reading of this last passage to the jury—which he had called the test questions. These questions and the doctor's answers were clearly directed to the state of the Respondent's mind at the moment of killing.

The learned Judge said: Now, if you accept that, its the end of this defence of insanity, because if you accept that, the man doesn't qualify, according to the rules which have been laid down. He may be a psychopath; he may be abnormal; he may be mentally defective—but if you accept that opinion of Dr. Johnston's he is not entitled to succeed in the defence of insanity which we are now discussing.

The effect of the evidence of Dr. Dawson upon which the defence of insanity rested is summarised in the following passages:

"Q. On that date (i.e. 7th September, 1960) what is your opinion about the state of the accused's mind?

"A. ... From the description of him when he was found, from the description of the terrible injuries received by his wife, it could be explained by a severe explosive reaction in an aggressive psychopath, probably to some extent, at least under the influence of drink.

"Q. What in your opinion was his mental state prior to and at the time of killing her?

A. Well—this is presumption purely on what I've heard, and the nature of her injuries, and what I know of the man and of his state when he was discovered—therefore I cannot quite honestly go beyond probabilities—but I do feel it is probable that this alleged attack on his wife was carried out while in one of these explosive reactions. It would seem to me to fit what I have heard—I cannot go further than that."

In the course of his answer to a further question as to the state of the Respondent's mind during the explosive outburst he said: Assuming I am right in considering that he might be subject to the short-circuit and bomb-like type of reaction ; and assuming also, my Lord, that he may have been under the influence of alcohol, I can only express a very real doubt, either to his having an appreciation of what he was doing, or that even it was wrong—on those assumptions, my Lord, I have given this question, which I knew would be asked, very anxious thought. Asked to explain the difference between the presence and absence of alcohol he said: Well, the only distinction I can draw, my Lord, is alcohol would make it still more doubtful as to whether he knew the nature and quality of his act; but even if he hadn't alcohol and was acting under provocation, with an extreme emotional reaction to that provocation, I would still have to express a doubt as to his appreciation of the nature and quality of his act —a doubt, my Lord. This is the passage which the Lord Chief Justice in his charge to the jury described as the high-water mark of his evidence. He said: That is as far as he can put it, he says so very fairly. He can't be positive ; he can't tell you that this man, in his opinion, didn't know what he was doing or didn't know that it was wrong. He says that for him there is a doubt. . . . Alcohol would make it still more doubtful.

These are the conflicting medical views. There is some difference of opinion as to whether the Respondent is in fact an aggressive psychopath. Dr. Dawson says he was, some of the others are prepared to accept that he might be, but the real conflict was whether these explosive reactions or outbursts in the case of an aggressive psychopath merely diminish or destroy the power of self-control or whether they prevent him having any knowledge of the nature and quality of his act or that it is wrong. It was a conflict with regard to the nature of the disease of the mind from which the accused was suffering, assuming he had the disease. If the witnesses for the prosecution were right this disease does not even under provocation or the stimulus of alcohol produce anything more than lack of self-control. If this was the true nature of the disease from which the Respondent was suffering at 9.30 a.m. on 7th September, 1960, and presumably still suffers today, the defence of insanity fails at the outset. It was accordingly, in my view, not only permissible but right and proper for the Lord Chief Justice to direct the jury to consider the condition of the man at that time and to tell them in effect that the subsequent consumption of alcohol could not assist the defence of insanity. This does not mean that a man can never produce in himself a disease of the mind by the excessive consumption of alcohol, e.g. delirium tremens, and in such a case the question will arise whether the disease so produced results in insanity within the M'Naghten Rules. This was not such a case. It was not suggested that the Respondent became an aggressive psychopath as a consequence of the consumption of alcohol. He was, it was said, an aggressive psychopath liable to outbursts of violence on provocation or under the influence of alcohol or any other exciting cause.

With these observations I turn to the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeal. They said: The main criticism on behalf of the Appellant of the Lord Chief Justice's directions to the jury was that he directed them to apply the McNaghten test not to the time when the Appellant killed his wife but to the morning of that day before he opened the bottle of whisky. It is pointed out that he so directed the jury both in the early part of his summing up and also again nearer the end. This is at variance with the specific terms of the McNaghten Rules which definitely fix the crucial time as the time of committing the act. The insanity sought to be relied on in the present case is a very special form of mental aberration. A jury would be entitled, if they accepted Dr. Dawson's evidence, to find that the Appellant suffered from a disease of the mind which was episodic and that it could only affect the Appellant's reason during one of the explosive out-bursts to which Dr. Dawson referred. If their consideration was directed away from the actual time of the killing to some earlier period in the day when the disease was quiescent they might easily come to the conclusion that the Appellant was not then suffering from the type of affliction which was being relied upon by the defence. As against this it is pointed out that time and time again throughout the summing-up the Lord Chief Justice recurs to the questions ' Did the accused know what he was doing 'and did he know that what he was doing was wrong? ', and that on every occasion he relates these questions to the time of the fatal acts. This would be a conclusive answer if we could be sure the jury in deciding the issue of insanity addressed themselves to these questions. No one can say what happened in the jury room. If the jury followed in their deliberations the order in which the McNaghten test was placed before them in the summing-up it is conceivable that they may first have chosen to consider whether the Appellant was suffering from a mental disease—relating this question to the morning of the crime—and having considered that the answer to this question was in the negative may have concluded that the defence of insanity failed.

The passages referred to are as follows: -

Now, the next question 1 want to take up with you is in some ways, perhaps, the most difficult aspect—at all events for me—of this unfortunate case: When do you apply that M'Naghten test in this case? We have heard a lot here during the course of this trial about intoxication, about brain storms, about explosions, about sudden re-actions, and it's very important, as I understand the situation, that we should get a pretty clear notion not only what the test is, but when it's applied.

There is a question of the man's intoxication—which I will come to presently—and it raises an issue in itself; it also complicates the question of insanity. But, gentlemen, the whole tenor, the whole weight, of the evidence in this case, as I have found it, is to the effect that if this man was suffering from a disease of the mind, it wasn't of a kind that is produced by drink. Sometimes we got cases v/here a man has become so sodden with drink that his mind becomes diseased; but that's not this case. There is clear evidence here— and it hasn't been disputed—that such mental peculiarities as he had may have existed when he wasn't taking drink. There's the evidence of Dr. Johnston, as well as Dr. Gray, that his mind hadn't deteriorated. There's every reason to come to the conclusion that if this man was insane, it wasn't because of drink. I didn't understand that was challenged; and it seems to me that in view of that, and in view of all the circumstances of the case, you have to regard his condition on the 7th of last September, before he touched a drop —on this question of insanity—later we have to come to another state of affairs—but on this question of insanity, my direction to you is that, in point of law, you must come to your conclusion without reference to the drink that the accused took on the 7th of September; and that you should direct your attention to the state of his mind on that morning before he opened the bottle of whisky.

This defence of insanity in this case cannot be made good with the aid of that bottle of whisky. If the accused was responsible for his actions before drinking that morning, he did not, in the eyes of the law, bring himself within the category of insanity which makes a man not responsible for his actions simply by making himself drunk. In other words, if a man is answerable for his acts, he can't bring himself over the line and be deemed not answerable by taking drink.

And towards the end of his charge: —

Now, apply this test which I have described to you, I am afraid, on several occasions now, in the light of all that evidence, of your own good sense, of what the medical men, out of their experience and skill, have told you, of all the circumstances of the case, and apply it to the situation as it existed that morning before the man started on the whisky bottle. If you come to the conclusion that, on the balance of probabilities, this man didn't know what he was doing, or didn't know 'the nature, didn't know that what he was doing was wrong, then you should find him guilty, but insane. On the other hand, if you come to the conclusion, remembering that the burden is on him of proving this defence of insanity, that he did know what he was doing when he killed his wife, then you should find against him on this evidence. If you think he knew what he was doing when he killed his wife, then you should find him guilty on this evidence. Remember the test, again. First of all. was he suffering from some disease or infirmity of mind? Is it such that he didn't know what he was doing was wrong; or, if he did know, that he didn't know it was wrong—I'm sorry—I'll put that again. Is he suffering from a disease of the mind? As a result of that, was he prevented from knowing what he was doing: or, if he did know what he was doing, that it was wrong?

My Lords, these passages, or parts of them, taken in isolation and quoted in a text book on crime might be open to some criticism, but they must be considered in the context of a careful and detailed summing-up dealing with the medical evidence in relation to the particular kind of mental disease relied upon by the defence. What the jury were being told was that they should consider whether the particular mental disease from which he was said to be then suffering was of the nature described by Dr. Dawson, namely one in which violent outbursts will produce absence of knowledge of the nature and quality of the act or its wrongness, or merely lack of loss of self control as stated by the prosecution doctors. Reading the summing-up as a whole this was, in my view, made abundantly clear. If, however, I am wrong in the interpretation I have placed on the summing-up taken as a whole, and if it is to be read in the sense impliedly attributed to it in the grounds upon which the Court of Criminal Appeal certified that their decision involved a point of law of general public importance, I would have no hesitation, in view of the overwhelming nature of the evidence, consisting largely of the Respondent's own statements, in holding that there had been no miscarriage of justice, and that the proviso to section 3 (1) of the Criminal Appeal (Northern Ireland) Act, 1930, should be applied. For these reasons I would allow the appeal and restore the verdict and sentence passed at the trial.

Lord Denning

My lords,

Every direction which a judge gives to a jury in point of law must be considered against the background of facts which have been proved or admitted in the case. In this case the accused man did not give evidence himself. And the facts proved against him were—

He had a grievance against his wife. She had obtained a maintenance order against him and had been instrumental in getting him detained in a mental hospital.

He had made up his mind to kill his wife. He bought a knife for the purpose and a bottle of whisky—either to give himself Dutch courage to do the deed or to drown his conscience after it. He did in fact carry out his intention. He killed his wife with the knife and drank much of the whisky before or after he killed her.

There were only two defences raised on his behalf: 1. Insanity: 2. Drunkenness.

The Lord Chief Justice directed the jury that the time when they had to consider whether he was insane or not (within the M'Naghten Rules) was before he started on the bottle of whisky. You should direct your attention, he said to them, to the state of his mind before he opened the bottle of whisky. If he was sane at that time, he could not make good the defence of insanity with the aid of that bottle of whisky. Immediately after the jury retired, Mr. Kelly took up this point of time. He suggested that it was inaccurate and inconsistent with the M'Naghten Rules. But the Lord Chief Justice adhered to his view. He declined to modify his charge to the jury on the matter. If I'm wrong, he said, I can be put right." It was on this very point of time that the Court of Criminal Appeal reversed him. His direction was, they said, inconsistent with the M'Naghten Rules, which fix the crucial time as "the time of" committing the act that is.the time of the killing and not at an earlier time.

The question is whether the direction of the Lord Chief Justice as to the time was correct. At least, that is how I read the question posed by the Court of Criminal Appeal. It is complicated by the fact that, according to the medical evidence, the accused man was a psychopath. That does not mean that he was insane. But it sharpens the point of the question. He had a disease of the mind. It was quiescent before he started on the whisky. So he was sane then. But the drink may have brought on an explosive outburst in the course of which he killed her. Can he rely on this self-induced defect of reason and put it forward as a defence of insanity?

My Lords, this case differs from all others in the books in that the accused man, whilst sane and sober, before he took to the drink, had already made up 'his mind to kill his wife. This seems to me to be far worse— and far more deserving of condemnation—than the case of a man who before getting drunk, has no intention to kill, but afterwards in his cups, whilst drunk, kills another by an act which he would not dream of doing when sober. Yet by the law of England in this latter case his drunkenness is no defence even though it has distorted his reason and his will-power. So why should it be a defence in the present case? And is it made any better by saying that the man is a psychopath?

The answer to the question is, I think, that the case falls to be decided by the general principle of English law that, subject to very limited exceptions, drunkenness is no defence to a criminal charge nor is a defect of reason produced by drunkenness. This principle was stated by Sir Matthew Hale in his Pleas of the Crown I p. 32 in words which I would repeat here: This vice (drunkenness) doth deprive men of the use of reason, and puts many men into a perfect, but temporary phrenzy . . . By the laws of England such a person shall have no privilege by this voluntary contracted madness, but shall have the same judgment as if he were in his right senses.

This general principle can be illustrated by looking at the various ways in which drunkenness may produce a defect of reason:

A. It may impair a man's powers of perception so that he may not be able to foresee or measure the consequences of his actions as he would if he were sober. Nevertheless he is not allowed to set up his sell-induced want of perception as a defence. Even if he did not himself appreciate that what he was doing was dangerous, nevertheless if a reasonable man in his place, who was not befuddled with drink, would have appreciated it, he is guilty, see Rex v. Meade [1909] 1 K.B. 895 as explained in Director of Public Prosecutions v. Beard [1920] A.C. 479 at pp. 502-4.

B. It may impair a man's power to judge between right or wrong, so that he may do a thing when drunk which he would not dream of doing while sober. He does not realise he is doing wrong. Nevertheless he is not allowed to set up his self-induced want of moral sense as a defence. In Beard's case [1920] A.C. 479 at p. 506 Lord Birkenhead, L.C. distinctly ruled that it was not a defence for a drunken man to say he did not know he was doing wrong.

C. It may impair a man's power of self-control so that he may more readily give way to provocation than if he were sober. Nevertheless he is not allowed to set up his self-induced want of control as a defence. The acts of provocation are to be assessed, not according to their effect on him personally, but according to the effect they would have on a reasonable man in his place. The law on this point was previously in doubt (see the cases considered in Beard's case [1920] A.C. 479 at pp. 495-497) but it has since been resolved by Regina v. McCarthy [1954] 2 Q.B. 105, Bedder v. Director of Public Prosecutions [1954] 1 W.L.R. 1119 and section 3 of the Homicide Act, 1957.

The general principle which I have enunciated is subject to two exceptions:

1. If a man is charged with an offence in which a specific intention is essential (as in murder, though not in manslaughter) then evidence of drunkenness, which renders him incapable of forming that intent, is an answer, see Beard's case [1920] A.C. 479 at pp. 501, 504. This degree of drunkenness is reached when the man is rendered so stupid by drink that he does not know what he is doing (see Regina v. Moore (1852) 3 C. and K. 319) as where, at a christening, a drunken nurse put the baby behind a large tire, taking it for a log of wood (Gentleman's Magazine 1748, page 270) : and where a drunken man thought his friend (lying in his bed) was a theatrical dummy placed there and stabbed him to death ("Times" 13th January, 1951). In each of those cases it would not be murder. But it would be manslaughter.

"1. If a man by drinking brings on a distinct disease of the mind such as delirium tremens, so that he is temporarily insane within the M'Naghten Rules, that is to say, he does not at the time know what he is doing or that it is wrong, then he has a defence on the ground of insanity. See Reg. v. Davis, 14 Cox C.C. 563, and Beard's case [1920] A.C. 479 at pp. 500-1."

Does the present case come within the general principle or the exceptions to it? It certainly does not come within the first exception. This man was not incapable of forming an intent to kill. Quite the contrary. He knew full well what he was doing. He formed an intent to kill, he carried out his intention and he remembered afterwards what he had done. And the jury, properly directed on the point, have found as much, for they found him guilty of murder. Then does the case come within the second exception? "it does not to my mind : for the simple reason that he was not suffering from a disease of the mind brought on by drink. He was suffering from a different disease altogether. As the Lord Chief Justice observed in his summing-up: If this man was suffering from a disease of the mind, it wasn't of a kind that is produced by drink.

So we have here a case of the first impression. The man is a psychopath. That is, he has a disease of the mind which is not produced by drink. But it is quiescent. And whilst it is quiescent, he forms an intention to kill his wife. He knows it is wrong but still he means to kill her. Then he gets Himself so drunk that he has an explosive outburst and kills his wife. At that moment he knows what he is doing but he does not know it is wrong. So in that respect—in not knowing it is wrong—fee has a defect of reason at the moment of killing. If that defect of reason is due to the drink, it is no defence in law. But if it is due to the disease of the mind, it gives rise to a defence of insanity. No one can say, however, whether it is due to the drink or to the disease. It may well be due to both in combination. What guidance does the law give in this difficulty? That is, as I see it, the question of general public importance which is involved in this case.

My Lords, I think the law on this point should take a clear stand. If a man, whilst sane and sober, forms an intention to kill and makes preparation for it, knowing it is a wrong thing to do, and then gets himself drunk so as to give himself Dutch courage to do the killing, and whilst drunk carries out his intention, he cannot rely on this self-induced drunkenness as a defence to a charge of murder, nor even as reducing it to manslaughter. He cannot say that he got himself into such a stupid state that he was incapable of an intent to kill. So also when he is a psychopath, he cannot by drinking rely on his self-induced defect of reason as a defence of insanity. The wickedness of his mind before he got drunk is enough to condemn him, coupled with the act which he intended to do and did do. A psychopath who goes out intending to kill, knowing it is wrong, and does kill, cannot escape the consequences by making himself drunk before doing it. That is, I believe, the direction which the Lord Chief Justice gave to the jury and which the Court of Criminal Appeal found to be wrong. I think it was right and for this reason I would allow the appeal.

I would agree, of course, that if before the killing he had discarded his intention to kill or reversed it—and then got drunk—it would be a different matter. But when he forms the intention to kill and without interruption proceeds to get drunk and carry out his intention, then his drunkenness is no defence and none the less so because it is dressed up as a defence of insanity. There was no evidence in this case of any interruption and there was no need for the Lord Chief Justice to mention it to the jury.

I need hardly say, of course, that I have here only considered the law of Northern Ireland. In England a psychopath such as this man might now be in a position to raise a defence of diminished responsibility under section 2 of the Homicide Act, 1957.

My Lords, I have thus dealt with the case by considering the point raised by the Court of Criminal Appeal: and by dealing with it, I think it is possible to dispose of the appeal. If it were necessary to consider any other point in order to dispose of the appeal, I would certainly be prepared to do so: for I take the view that, once leave to appeal is given to your Lordships' House, all points are open as well as the point stated: and that it is not correct for the Court of Criminal Appeal to limit the appeal to the point which they consider to be of general public importance. Your Lordships will be well able, of course, to prevent any abuse of this power.

I would allow this appeal and restore the conviction of murder.

Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest

My lords,

The Court of Criminal Appeal have certified that a point of law of general public importance was involved in their decision. Their decision, shortly stated, was that the conviction of the Appellant ought to be set aside because the jury were wrongly directed. The point of law as defined in the certificate ofthe Court of Criminal Appeal can only have relevance and significance if it is related to their decision that the summing-up was open to criticism on the ground that there was misdirection. As the point of kw stated by the Court of Criminal Appeal is not a theoretical one but a practical one it must be taken to postulate that there was evidence from which the jury could have held that the accused had been in a psychopathic condition, that such condition was quiescent, that he voluntarily consumed intoxicating liquor, and afterwards had an explosive outburst, and to raise the question whether on such basis the jury was incorrectly directed as to the application of the rules in M'Naghten's case. The submission of the Appellant was that there was no misdirection.

On the part of the case dealing with insanity the issue before the jury was whether the accused at the time of the killing was suffering from a disease of the mind, which disease had the effect of producing a defect of reason so that either he did not know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or that he did not know that it was wrong. If he had any disease of the mind he had it prior to and in the morning of the 7th September: it was immaterial how it was caused though if the accused had any disease of the mind it was not of a kind that was caused by drink. If he had a disease of the mind in the morning I do not read the medical evidence as suggesting that some later consumption of alcohol altered the nature of the disease. Nor do I read the medical evidence as suggesting that any disease of the mind originated during the day. It was said that the accused had a disease of the mind which was " episodic " in that it made him liable to have outbursts. If there was some explosive outburst resulting either in his not knowing what he was doing or not knowing that it was wrong there would only be applicability of the M'Naghten Rules if such explosive outburst was a manifestation of, or a result of, some disease of the mind which existed in the morning. If there was some explosive outburst which resulted from drink and not from a disease of the mind, then the M'Naghten Rules would not be applicable. It was for the accused at the trial to show that his actions at the time of the killing were manifestations of a disease of the mind and not manifestations of being under the influence of alcohol.

Since in the present case it was not suggested that if the accused had some disease of the mind it had not existed at the start of the day and throughout the day, a consideration as to whether such disease existed in the morning was equally a consideration as to whether it existed at the time of the committing of the act". When the learned Lord Chief Justice told the jury in his summing up that they should come to their conclusion without reference to the drink that the accused took on the 7th September, and should direct their attention to the state of his mind in the morning before he opened the bottle of whisky, he was helpfully reminding them that for the M'Naghten Rules to apply the defect of reason producing a condition of either not knowing the nature and quality of the act being done or of not knowing that it was wrong must be the result of a disease of the mind and not the result of being under the influence of drink. The learned Lord Chief Justice was pointing the difference between the possible case where a psychopath does something because he is drunk and the possible case where a psychopath does something because he is a psychopath.

The many references in the summing-up to the tests in regard to the knowledge of the accused, that is, his knowledge as to the nature and quality of the act he was doing or as to whether it was wrong) must in the nature of things have had reference to the moment of time of the act (i.e. the killing) which was in question. The learned Lord Chief Justice summarised all the medical evidence very carefully The most that Dr. Dawson could say in regard to the accused's knowledge was that assuming that the accused may have been under the influence of alcohol he (Dr. Dawson) expressed a very real doubt " as to the accused's knowledge in the material respects: if it were assumed that the accused had not had alcohol Dr. Dawson expressed " a doubt" as to the accused's knowledge.

If the jury thought that the accused did have a disease of the mind then such disease of the mind existed on the morning of the 7th September, and before the defence of insanity could succeed the jury would have had to have been of the opinion that that disease of the mind was of such a kind that it could produce and that it did produce a defect of reason which had the result that the accused either did not know what he was doing or did not know that it was wrong.

Having these considerations in mind, it seems to me that read as a whole the summing-up did not wrongly direct the jury in their consideration of the issue of insanity.

I would allow the appeal.


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