Monday 24 June 2019

Enniscorthy couple convicted of killing MS sufferer by neglect have convictions quashed

An Enniscorthy couple convicted of killing a 59-year-old MS sufferer by neglect have had their convictions quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Evelyn Joel's 41-year-old daughter, Eleanor, and her partner Jonathan Costen (43), with last addresses at Cluain Dara, Enniscorthy, had pleaded not guilty to the unlawful killing of Evelyn by neglect in Co Wexford in January 2006.

Following a retrial, they were found guilty by a jury at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court and were given a two year suspended sentence by Judge Seán O'Donnabháin in March 2013 on condition they carry out 230 hours of community service.

The pair successfully appealed their convictions with the Court of Appeal holding that the couple succeeded on a number of grounds.

Mr Justice Birmingham said Eleanor Joel and Mr Costen contended that others, including healthcare professionals and local authority officials, were responsible for such negligence as allegedly occurred and that no private individual had the resources to mount an investigation into the negligence of others.

While there was no indication of criminal conduct, Mr Justice Birmingham said, the nature of the HSE's interaction with Evelyn Joel 'gave rise to concern and disquiet'.

Furthermore, such was the extent of publicity across County Wexford arising from the first trial, Mr Justice Birmingham said the issues at stake were so emotional, so sensitive and the coverage so massive and intense, their retrial 'should have been transferred from Wexford to Dublin'.

He said the court was concerned that a significant step in the trial – the replacement of a juror – was taken in the absence of Ms Joel's legal advisors. It was an 'unsatisfactory state of affairs' and Ms Joel succeeded on this ground.

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