The Court of Criminal Appeal reserved judgement today on an attempt by convicted murderer Brian Kearney to have his case heard by the country’s highest court.
Kearney (aged 53), was jailed for life by the Central Criminal Court two years ago for strangling his wife Siobhan to death at their family home in south Dublin and staging the scene to look like a suicide.
An appeal by the former businessman against his murder conviction was dismissed by the three-judge appeal court last year.
Today, lawyers for Kearney argued their client’s appeal raises “a point of exceptional public importance” which requires Supreme Court determination.
The CCA of Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, presiding, sitting with Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and Mr Justice John MacMenamin was told the Supreme Court needed to address the point of whether, in certain circumstances, it is open to trial judges to admit evidence, where they are “mindful” of its possible prejudicial effect on an accused.
The body of Siobhan Kearney, a mother-of-one, was discovered on February 28, 2006 in the bedroom of the home she shared with her husband.
Mr Kearney’s trial in 2008 heard that there was no sign of forced entry at the house in Carnroe, Knocknashee, Goatstown, and that their then three-year-old son was found wandering around the house.
A post-mortem examination revealed that Mrs Kearney died from ligature strangulation, but suffered many injuries more consistent with manual strangulation.
The prosecution claimed that Kearney strangled his 38-year-old wife with the vacuum cleaner flex and then tried to make it look like suicide by pulling the flex over the door of an en-suite bathroom.
The motive, they said, was that Mrs Kearney’s plans to leave her husband would add to his financial pressures. Today, the court was told Kearney was a “very rich man” but that he “owed a lot of money”.
Mrs Kearney’s passport, a diary and a sum of money were discovered in the hot press of her home after her death.
Counsel for Kearney said the admission of these as “evidence” in his trial was prejudicial as it had operated to “dramatically” “feed into” the suggestion that “a fast exit strategy” was needed.
This “exit strategy”, the court was told, was “predicated on the fact that living in the house “was so unbearable”.
The court was also told that the point being raised in Mr Kearney’s case was “not so remote”, that one would have to wait “five or 10 years” before it arose again. It was a matter that would “reasonably have application in other cases”.
The DPP opposed yesterday’s application, brought under Section 29 of the Criminal the Courts of Justice Act 1924.
Mr Denis Vaughan Buckley SC, for the State, said Mr Kearney’s case did not raise an issue of “exceptional importance” and “certainly” did not raise a point which required the Supreme Court to consider it.
The Court of Criminal Appeal adjourned its decision on the matter.