Belfast Telegraph

Man jailed for murder bid on friend wins retrial

A man jailed for trying to kill a lifelong friend by stabbing him in the neck is to face a retrial, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Senior judges quashed Cyril Hamilton's conviction for attempted murder on the basis that a misdirection to the jury undermined the safety of the guilty verdict.

Hamilton (49), formerly of Galgorm Road, Ballymena, was given an indeterminate prison sentence of at least seven years for stabbing Samuel Mitchell.

Mr Mitchell, who had known the defendant since childhood, was knifed in the neck in August 2009, sustaining a fractured vertebra.

The attack happened after he was invited by Hamilton to his girlfriend's flat in the town. All three had been drinking heavily.

Hamilton had pleaded not guilty to attempted murder but guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent.

The prosecution refused his plea to the lesser offence and the trial continued to establish whether the assault involved murderous intent.

One of the grounds of appeal advanced by Hamilton's lawyers was that the trial judge's direction to the jury on bad character evidence was inadequate.

Delivering judgment in the Court of Appeal, Lord Justice Girvan said it was explained to jurors that the evidence of |previous convictions was to |deal with any false impression of Hamilton, having heard |from a taxi driver who picked him up.

However, he stated: “There was a real danger that, without clear and proper guidance, the jury might misinterpret the evidence which was prejudicial to the applicant.

“The trial judge did not explain that it could not be interpreted as evidence of propensity or as evidence showing a propensity to assault with a murderous intent.”

Lord Justice Girvan added: “We conclude, accordingly, that there was a material misdirection which undermines the safety of the conviction and thus we grant leave to appeal and quash the conviction.”

The court further ruled that |it was appropriate to order a retrial.

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