Man charged with leaving his ex-partner with brain injuries could face murder charge
A Belfast man accused of attacking his ex-partner who was left in a vegetative state two years ago is to potentially be charged with her murder, a court heard yesterday.
Michael O'Connor (32) has been in custody charged with the attempted murder of Joleen Corr in December 2016 and causing the 27-year-old beautician grievous bodily harm with intent.
Ms Corr sustained horrific brain injuries and was left in a coma after being attacked in a house in Thomas Russell Park in Downpatrick.
She was beaten so badly she was barely recognisable and having spent six months in the Royal Victoria and Musgrave Park Hospitals, she was transferred home.
Following a court ruling earlier this year, however, doctors withdrew treatment and she died on April 26. It is understood that since then, the PPS have been considering the contents of a post-mortem report.
At Newtownards Crown Court yesterday, prosecuting QC David McDowell revealed that a decision had been taken to prosecute O'Connor for murder.
He told Judge Piers Grant the PPS will be seeking a "voluntary bill" charging O'Connor with murder "and manslaughter in the alternative" but defence counsel Tom McCreanor added "that will be opposed".
"I have just been informed of that this morning," said the lawyer, who suggested listing the case so that a suitable date can be identified for a full hearing.
When a voluntary bill is used, instead of having their case and charges processed through the magistrates court and then returned to the Crown Court, a defendant's case goes directly to the Crown Court.
For murder and manslaughter to be added to O'Connor's bill of indictment, the PPS must satisfy a judge there is sufficient evidence to ground the new charges.
In court yesterday, Mr McDowell said as the new charge was murder, that would "normally be before a High Court judge" but conceded as the situation was so rare, "I'm not cognisant of the precise mechanisms."
Although Ms Corr's brother and other friends and relatives had come to court to hear of the developments, O'Connor was not produced from prison.
O'Connor is originally from Westrock Grove in Belfast, but his address was given as Maghaberry prison.
Judge Grant said he was "anxious to try to avoid delay" and suggested it would be important to ascertain which High Court judge made the order to withdraw medical treatment.
He said it may not be appropriate for the writer of that order to deal with the voluntary bill issue.
Judge Grant said that he would reissue a third-party disclosure order for Ms Corr's medical notes and records from her time in the RVH and the case will be reviewed on November 22.