04 Jul 2022

Conviction of father for murder of infant son declared a miscarriage of justice

The conviction of a father who spent 16 years in jail for the murder of his infant son has been declared a miscarriage of justice.

Yusif Ali Abdi, who was subsequently found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity, has been given leave to seek compensation from the State after a Miscarriage of Justice application was today granted by the Central Criminal Court.  

In December of last year Somali refugee Mr Abdi was committed to the Central Mental Hospital, having been found not guilty by reason of insanity of the murder of his son, 20-month-old Nathan Baraka Andrew Ali, in a retrial.

Mr Abdi was tried before the Central Criminal Court in 2003 for the murder of his son, when a jury rejected his insanity defence and found him guilty of murder by a majority verdict.

The Central Criminal Court trial heard that on the night of the killing, his wife Ms Amanda Bailey and Nathan visited Mr Abdi at his apartment at Clane. Mr Abdi removed his son from his mother's bed around 4am and took him to the living room, where he locked the door and a number of loud bangs were subsequently heard.

When Ms Bailey gained access to the room, the child's body was limp, his head was swollen and he had blood in his nose. Ms Bailey failed to find a pulse on her son and he was pronounced dead at 5.30am that morning.

Mr Abdi had spent 16 years in jail before his murder conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal on February 13, 2019, and a retrial was ordered, after the court heard he had been correctly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2013.  

Mr Abdi (47), with addresses at Charleville Road, Phibsboro, Dublin 7, and The Elms, College Road, Co Kildare, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the murder charge at the Clane address on April, 17, 2001.

Mr Abdi, whose father died in the Somali civil war, came to Ireland in 1997 and was granted refugee status in 2000. He married Irish woman Amanda Bailey and they had a son Nathan, who was born in August 1999.

In a victim impact statement in December, Ms Bailey told the court that she did not believe "for one second" that Mr Abdi could have known what he was doing.

A pathologist said that baby Nathan died from head injuries, which were most likely caused from his head impacting at least three or four times against a hard surface such as a wall or floor.

Four consultant psychiatrists gave evidence in the retrial that Mr Abdi was suffering from schizophrenia in 2001 and that he met the requirements for the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

At the original trial, Dr Damian Mohan, a consultant psychiatrist at the Central Mental Hospital (CMH), was called by the prosecution and gave evidence that Mr Abdi was not suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

However, Dr Mohan told the retrial that he now agreed with three other medical witnesses that Mr Abdi had a history of paranoid schizophrenia dating back to November 1999.

Dr Mohan testified that in 2019 he had the benefit of three admissions of the accused to the mental health facility following the 2003 murder conviction, which Dr Mohan did not have at the time of the original trial.

At this afternoon's proceedings, Mr Justice Alexander Owens said that the granting of the certificate for a Miscarriage of Justice was not about "pointing the finger of blame".

Mr Justice Owens heard the application under Section 9 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

The judge said that the new diagnosis by Dr Mohan amounted to a "newly-discovered fact" and that it had later become "undisputed fact" that Mr Abdi had been suffering with schizophrenia in 2001.

The judge said that the chronic illness varied in intensity and that the diagnosis had now moved to accept that.

"There are only two outcomes of a jury trial in my opinion: conviction or acquittal," said Mr Justice Owens, who added that because the special verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity could not be appealed it was to be regarded as acquittal. 

Mr Justice Owens said that because acquittal was not available to the Court of Appeal, a retrial had to be ordered even though "it was clear the original verdict couldn't stand and was wrong in a fundamental aspect".

The judge said that the original trial had referenced behaviours by Mr Abdi, such as locking the kitchen door, to suggest that the defendant knew what he was doing was wrong.

"I suspect this is not the first time this has happened in an insanity case," said Mr Justice Owens, noting that in a special insanity defence, the onus of proof was on the defence.

The judge said that he saw no difference between a case relying on a diagnosis and one relying on forensic or scientific evidence that turns out to be erroneous.

Mr Justice Owens approved the certificate for the Miscarriage of Justice application and awarded Mr Abdi's defence team their costs.

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