Dumbrell brothers appeal against murder convictions
on 21/10/2013 18:32:32
In February 2011, Warren (aged 39) and Jeffrey Dumbrell (aged 33) were jailed for life after being convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury of the murder of 33-year-old Christopher Cawley outside his home at Tyrone Place flats in Inchicore.
The brothers, last of Emmet Place in Inchicore, had both pleaded not guilty to murdering the father-of-six on October 29, 2006.
It was the second time the brothers had been convicted of the murder.
Their first conviction in 2008 was however deemed "unsafe" by the Court of Criminal Appeal in July 2010, because of comments made by the trial judge, Mr Justice Paul Carney, in a speech he gave while presiding over the case.
Mr Justice Carney's speech included statements on a number of issues relevant to the trial, including fatal stabbings and sentencing policy, the court said.
It found that this rendered the brothers murder conviction "unsafe" and ordered a re-trial.
Mr Cawley was attacked and fatally stabbed on the stairway of the flat complex where he lived at Tyrone Place in Inchicore. The court heard that Mr Cawley's wife Janette, five-year-old son and eldest daughter witnessed the attack.
The court also heard that while Mr Cawley's daughter was collapsed screaming on the ground, one of the Dumbrells said "your daddy's gone now" as they walked away from the scene.
Counsel for Warren Dumbrell, Mr Michael O'Higgins SC, today told the Court of Criminal Appeal that the trial judge erred in law in failing to properly direct the jury not to conduct their own enquiries about the case on the internet and by regarding a warning about such conduct as sufficient.
He submitted a balance should be struck by introducing some form of coercive measure to show jurors there is a consequence for not following the directions of a trial judge.
Mr O'Higgins said that, absent something like this, an accused person is vulnerable, and Warren Dumbrell was "particularly vulnerable" as there was "material out there" which the trial court described as "obnoxious and disgraceful".
He said Mr Justice Butler erred by effectively finding that the jurors were infallible and argued that a mere direction from the judge was insufficient to guarantee a fair trial.
Mr O'Higgins submitted that the trial judge erred by failing to warn the jury that the victim had a proclivity for violence and previous conviction for carrying knives, while the defence were denied the opportunity to introduce those previous convictions without "dropping their shield".
The trial court heard evidence that Jeffrey Dumbrell claimed Christopher Cawley threatened him and Warren with a knife when they got to Tyrone Place, but he grabbed the knife from him and claimed he stabbed Mr Cawley in self-defence.
Mr Brendan Nix SC, for Jeffrey Dumbrell, said he would adopt the arguments made by Mr O'Higgins.
Counsel for the State, Mr Paul Burns SC, told the court it was "patently clear" the brothers had received a fair trial, and there was nothing to suggest that matters in the media or on the internet interfered with or had any role to play in the running or determination of the trial.
He said the applicants were suggesting that the proper thing to do would be to adjourn the case until the Oireachtas brought in a criminal offence for jurors on the direction matter.
Mr Burns said the court should not lose sight of the fact that it was not possible to give "absolute guarantees", and should note that jurors take their role seriously and take notice of, and try cases in accordance with, the directions of the trial judge.
He said the test of whether there was a substantial and real risk of an unfair trial had not been met.
Mr Burns said the fact that Mr Cawley had previous convictions for knife offences was also made clear to the jury by Jeffrey Dumbrell, who took to the stand at the trial.
Chief Justice Susan Denham, presiding, said the appeal court would reserve its judgement.