First murder case defended under Defence and the Dwelling Act ends in acquittal

A man has been cleared of murdering another man he found in his home by stabbing in the first murder case defended under the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011.

Martin Keenan, 20, had pleaded not guilty to murdering 33-year-old Wesley Mooney at St Joseph’s Park halting site on 5 June 2016.

Dublin Central Criminal Court heard that the accused and his wife had returned home that night to find two strangers in their bedroom. The defendant claimed that the deceased had attacked him, and he therefore picked up the nearest object and hit him with it.

The deceased’s girlfriend, Ciara Tynan, testified that they had been invited by an acquaintance to a mobile home for a drink. They followed directions to the empty and unlocked mobile home while the acquaintance went to an off license.

She said Mr Keenan, the owner, then returned and told them to get “the f**k” out and that they did so. However, as they were leaving, she said the accused stuck something into her boyfriend, who fell to the ground.

Mr Mooney was unarmed and died where he fell on the decking of Mr Keenan’s mobile home, having sustained two stab wounds from half of a long-handled garden shears, and a spiral fracture to his shin.

Mr Keenan told the court that the deceased and his girlfriend “were two junkies and I was frightened”, and that Mr Mooney “came running at me so I picked up some kind of a tool yoke and I hit him with it”.

Séamus Clarke SC, defending, relied on a Court of Criminal Appeal judgement and the Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011.

Garnet Orange SC, prosecuting, said that the deceased was not attacking anybody, that the force used had been unreasonable, and there was no need or justification for the use of the weapon.

Mr Justice Paul Butler told the ten men and two women of the jury that there were three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty or not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

He explained: “If you’re satisfied that the prosecution has not negated the accused’s case, that he felt in danger, a man was attacking him, then he’s entitled to defend himself using force. If the force is not disproportionate, then he’s not guilty.”

The jury foreman asked how the 2011 Act differed from the law that had been there beforehand.

The judge replied: “Before that, if you were in situation, you had to retreat. Now, you have certain rights in your home.

“If you’re using the force in defence of yourself or your home and it’s not reasonable then it’s manslaughter, not murder.”

Natasha Reid, Ireland International News Agency Ltd.