State urged to pay man prosecuted in error

The State has been strongly urged by the Supreme Court to make a “significant” ex gratia payment to a man after finding he should never have been prosecuted for public order offences arising from a dispute over cattle between neighbours in West Cork 19 years ago.

State urged to pay man prosecuted in error

The circumstances which lead to Stephen Murphy Junior’s prosecution for two alleged offences outside his home on June 27, 1996, represented a “significant internal failure” on the part of gardaí, Mr Justice Frank Clarke said.

While dismissing claims of malicious prosecution, the three-judge court urged the State to “seriously consider” making a “significant ex gratia payment” to Mr Murphy due to the way he was treated.

After saying any application by the State for legal costs would be treated “with severe disdain”, Mr Justice Clarke, with Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and Mr Justice Peter Charleton, made no orders for costs for or against any party and directed the State pay Mr Murphy’s reasonable expenses of having had to come to court to get “clarity” on the issue dating back 20 years.

The Supreme Court found while Mr Murphy should not have been prosecuted for two offences outside his family home at Baurnahulla, Drimoleague, on June 27 1996, there was no malicious prosecution involved.

It also rejected an appeal by Mr Murphy’s sister Ann against dismissal of her claims that she was maliciously prosecuted on public order charges over events on June 27, 1996.

The prosecutions cannot have been activated by malice for reasons including that one conviction justifiably remains against Ms Murphy concerning June 27 and that one conviction remains against her brother over events on June 29, 1996, the court said.

The court noted the dispute between the Murphys and their neighbours, John and Dermot McCarthy, whose lands surround the Murphy home, dated to 1994 when reclamation of some land by the McCarthys affected a water source to the home occupied by Stephen Murphy Sr, since deceased, his son Stephen, and daughter Ann.

A “feeling of injustice” was ever after part of the Murphys’ attitude which translated into “disquiet and anger” whenever the McCarthys drove their cattle on the public road past the Murphy home.

The court heard two related prosecutions arose due to human error largely because of a typist’s transcription error where Mr Murphy Jr’s name was confused with his father’s and the High Court accepted gardaí only learned of that error before that court, he said.

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