Legal case was first of its kind in Ulster
Acquitted of murder, man then tried for manslaughter
Published 15/02/2008 | 12:43
The trial of Dale Kelly for the manslaughter of the boyfriend of his former lover is a landmark legal case in Northern Ireland.
Just under two years ago the Co Antrim bar manager was acquitted of the murder of 34-year-old Peter Gamble.
The 12 men and women of the jury took over three hours to reach a verdict after a marathon nine-day trial during which they heard evidence from medical experts and other witnesses.
However, as Mr Kelly hugged his mother and legal team after the verdict was revealed, his relief was shortlived.
For the first time in legal history in Northern Ireland, he was arraigned and tried for for the lesser charge of manslaughter after being found not guilty of murder.
But yesterday, Mr Kelly walked from court a free man after he was found not guilty of the unlawful killing of his former lover's ex-partner.
This raised a number of issues for the court.
While it did not make a ruling preventing the jury in the manslaughter trial being informed of the previous murder trial, the prosecution, defence and judge jointly decided to withhold this information from them - in an effort to ensure Mr Kelly received a fair trial.
Transcripts of police interviews with Mr Kelly in the days after Mr Gamble's tragic death, which were presented as evidence in the manslaughter trial, were carefully edited to remove any mention of the fact that he was originally arrested for murder.
At one stage, the trial was halted and the jury was sent from the courtroom as Mr Kelly struggled to respond to the Crown's cross examination of his evidence.
Prosecution counsel Richard Weir QC was pressing Mr Kelly for an explanation for his emotional response when he was arrested for Mr Gamble's death.
After attempting to explain several times, Kelly said: "I don't think I can answer this question."
After the jury was removed from the court, Mr Kelly explained that he did not know how best to answer without mentioning the fact that he was arrested for murder.
So, while the jury had to get to grips with complicated medical evidence and conflicting accounts of the events leading to Mr Gamble's death, legal history was being made in Northern Ireland.
However, the protracted nature of the case has further amplified the misery and heartache of everyone involved, who have waited patiently for three and a half years for its conclusion.