An accountant who was convicted of assaulting his wife by punching, kicking and stabbing her, has won an appeal against his conviction.
President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham described some aspects of Sidney Sutton's defence as "implausible" and said Mr Sutton had submitted documents to the court that were "scandalous, scurrilous and outrageous" and would not be considered. He added, however, that there was one significant ground of appeal made out by one of Mr Sutton's previous legal teams that the court would consider.
Mr Sutton (43) of Brindley Park Square, Ashbourne, Co Meath, was convicted at the Circuit Court in 2017 of four counts of assault, one of assault causing harm and one count of producing a knife capable of inflicting serious injury. The prosecution had alleged that the offences occurred in the early hours of February 6, 2016 as Mr Sutton and his partner, Edele Aherne, returned to their home after attending a wedding in Slane, Co Meath the previous day.
Mr Sutton was sentenced to two years with the final 12 months suspended but the Court of Appeal previously ruled that sentence was too lenient and ordered him to serve a further 16 months. That conviction has now been quashed and Mr Sutton will appear before the Court of Appeal again on May 10 when the Director of Public Prosecutions will say whether it intends to ask for a retrial. Mr Sutton will be entitled to oppose any application for a retrial.
Following the quashing of the conviction Mr Sutton asked Mr Justice Birmingham if his name was cleared and added: "I didn't commit the crime."
The judge replied: "You can put whatever spin on it you want. I don’t want to hear speeches from you. You have done yourself no favours during this saga."
In interviews with gardai following the assault allegation, Mr Sutton said that his wife had attacked him and that her injuries were caused by a fall and self-harm with a kitchen knife. He further told gardai that his wife had done something similar in October 2015 when, he said, she self-harmed and then blamed him.
Carl Hanahoe, SC for the Director of Public Prosecutions explained today, Monday, April 26, to the three-judge court that the interviews were edited to remove any reference to the October 2015 incident because the defence had said matters relating to Mr Sutton's prior relationship with his wife were not relevant.
Mr Hanahoe pointed out that Mr Sutton's wife had referenced the same incident in her statements, saying: "This is not the first time Sidney has been violent with me. In October 2015 he punched me in the face a couple of times. I made a statement but I didn't proceed with it." She was not, counsel said, cross examined on that as would have been required if the defence wanted to rely on Mr Sutton's claim that his wife had previously lied.
Mr Hanahoe said Mr Sutton was trying to "ride two horses" by saying his wife's statement about the previous incident was irrelevant but Mr Sutton's statement to gardai about the same incident was relevant.
Mr Hanahoe also submitted that the prosecution is entitled to edit a memo of interview without consulting the defence where it contains statements that are irrelevant or inadmissible.
Delivering the decision of the three-judge Court of Appeal Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said the "material in question should not have been edited out because it went in a core way to the defendant's case."
Mr Justice McCarthy said Mr Sutton's wife could have been called to give her version of what happened in October 2015 however "distasteful" that might have been and however "lacking in credibility" Mr Sutton's statement might have been.
The court found that the trial judge had committed an error by allowing the prosecution to edit the memos of interview in the way they did and therefore quashed the conviction.
Mr Sutton, who was representing himself having dismissed multiple legal teams in recent months, was not invited to speak during the hearing. Instead, the judges relied on submissions made by one of his previous legal teams regarding the editing of the interviews.