Man found guilty of murdering pregnant ex-girlfriend awaits appeal decision

A man who murdered his pregnant ex-girlfriend must wait to hear whether his appeal against conviction has been successful.

Man found guilty of murdering pregnant ex-girlfriend awaits appeal decision

A man who murdered his pregnant ex-girlfriend must wait to hear whether his appeal against conviction has been successful.

Stephen Cahoon (aged 42), with a last address at Harvey Street, Derry, admitted strangling mother-of-four Jean Teresa Quigley, who was 10 weeks pregnant at the time, on July 26, 2008.

However, the unemployed labourer originally from Magherafelt in Co Derry pleaded not guilty to murdering the 30-year-old in her home at Cornshell Fields, Derry.

A jury of seven women and five men unanimously found him guilty of murder at the Central Criminal Court on April 30 2012 and he was immediately sentenced to life imprisonment.

Moving an appeal against conviction in the Court of Appeal today, counsel for Mr Cahoon, Michael O'Higgins SC, submitted that the trial judge Mr Justice Barry White had misdirected the jury while explaining the defence of provocation.

Mr Justice White had told the jury, Mr O'Higgins said, that "the State must establish unlawful killing" and then they must "upgrade" manslaughter to murder by establishing an intent to kill or cause serious harm.

The now retired Central Criminal Court judge then went on to state that the concept of provocation could not involve intention because a person is not a master of their own mind when they lose self control.

"Having regard to provocation or loss of self control," Mr Justice White had told the jury the Court of Appeal heard today, "no such intent is there because what provocation pre-supposes is you don't have a rational mind, you don't realise what you are doing (and) you are not master of your own mind".

That definition, Mr O'Higgins submitted, was actually the definition of insanity.

Mr O'Higgins said there was no mystery about it. He said Mr Justice White “believed that you could not form an intention” having been provoked, notwithstanding the substantial body of law which said otherwise.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Patrick Marrinane SC, said provocation could give rise to “very complex” legal scenarios.

However that was not the situation in this case, Mr Marrinan said. It was a “classic provocation case” without any complicating factors and Mr Justice White had correctly directed the jury in accordance with the law.

Mr Marrinan said the trial judges charge to the jury had to be taken in context.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan said, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice George Birmingham, said the court would reserve its decision to a date “as soon as possible”.

The Cahoon trials made legal history. He was charged under the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act of 1976 and was given the option of being tried in the Republic or in the North.

He opted for trial in the Republic and became the first person to be tried before a jury here for an offence under the anti-terrorist legislation.

The 1976 Act was brought in to allow for trials in the Republic for offences committed outside the jurisdiction in the North or Great Britain.

It has rarely been used and up until now the only cases have been brought before the three-judge, non-jury Special Criminal Court.

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