Woman will never face trial over assault

"Unexplained and blameworthy" prosecutorial delay extending over 24 years entitles a woman to an order permanently halting her prosecution on charges arising from a "savage" assault on her father, the Supreme Court has ruled.

Christopher Payne, aged 37, who was suffering severe renal failure at the time of the assault in May 1988, died six months later from multiple causes including an “old head injury”, the court noted.

Two young men, including the then 18-year-old boyfriend of Mr Payne’s daughter Sharon, aged 15, claimed she had asked them to have her father “done” because he was allegedly beating her and her mother.

Four intruders tied up Ms Payne, her teenage friend, Ms Payne’s younger brother before tying up her mother. When Mr Payne returned from dialysis treatment sometime after 12 midnight, he was subject to a “savage” assault and suffered serious head injuries. He was in a coma for some time but returned home in September 1988 and died in late November 1988.

Sharon Cullen nee Payne, aged 41, Ballyjamesduff, Co Cavan, was charged in 2011 with unlawfully and maliciously causing grievous harm to her father with intent to murder him at Rutland Grove, Crumlin, Dublin, on May 13, 1988.

Yesterday, dismissing the DPP’s appeal against a High Court decision halting the prosecution of Ms Cullen, the five judge Supreme Court criticised “unacceptable conduct” by gardaí, who had claimed Ms Cullen had sought to evade arrest, in denying Ms Cullen’s correct claim her maiden name was, at her request, placed on her first passport obtained in 2002/2003.

After four young men on July 3, 1989, admitted involvement in the assault on Mr Payne, the DPP on July 25, 1989, directed Ms Payne and her mother be charged in connection with the assault.

Gardaí claimed they were unable to arrest Ms Payne as she, her mother, and younger brother left Ireland in late July 1989.

The case was reviewed as a “cold case” in 2009, gardaí located Ms Cullen in 2010 and the DPP in 2011, directed she be charged.


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