R v McInnes

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date29 July 1971
Judgment citation (vLex)[1971] EWCA Crim J0729-6
Docket NumberNo. 135/A/71
CourtCourt of Appeal (Criminal Division)
Date29 July 1971

[1971] EWCA Crim J0729-6



Royal Courts of Justice


Lord Justice Edmund Davies

Mr. Justice Lawton


Mr. Justice Forbes

No. 135/A/71

Walter McInnes

MR. E.S. TEMPLE, Q.C., and MR. J.V. WILLIAMSON appeared on behalf of the Appellant.

MR. W. BINGHAM, Q.C., and MR. K. DEWHURST appeared on behalf of the Crown.


On December 14th, 1970 Walter McInnes, a youth of 18, was convicted at the Manchester Crown Court of the murder of Phillip James Reilly, who was 22. As his application for leave to appeal against conviction raised points of law, leave was automatically granted last month by the full Court.


The incident which led to the murder charge was of a kind only too frequently occurring in these days, namely, a fracas between two perfect strangers which resulted in the violent death of one of them as the result of a knife wound. The Appellant belonged to a group of youths commonly called "greasers", who adopt a particular form of dress which includes leather jackets. Hostility generally exists between them and "skinheads", who are youths differently dressed and having close-cropped heads. The deceased belonged to neither of these groups.


Reilly was killed at about 9.30 on Saturday, the 22nd August of last year at a fair being held at Platt Fields in Manchester, and his death was caused by a knife-wound in the left side of the body. The knife used had penetrated the heart. The wound was about two inches deep and about three feet eleven inches from the victim's left heel.


At about 12.50 in the morning of Sunday, the 23rd August a Detective Sergeant Smith saw the Appellant Mc Innes with another man called Rochford in the street. The Sergeant cautioned Mc Innes and told him that he had reason to believe that he had been responsible for Reilly's death by stabbing the previous evening. Mc Innes replied "I've not done anything and I'm not going anywhere". He had a knife in the top of his trousers and the Sergeant took possession of it. It was a knife with a heavy handle, the blade was about five inches long and it had a pointed end. The total length of the knife was something between nine and ten inches. On being asked why he was carrying it, the Appellant replied "I'm minding it for a mate". He was then arrested.


At the Police Station when questioned by an Inspector he eventually admitted stabbing Reilly with that weapon. He went on to say "All right I did stab him. He jumped me. What could I do when someone passed me the knife". He was then told that a youth named John Rooney was present while he was struggling with the dead man and the Inspector added "He knows you both and he saw you stab him in the chest, after which you all ran away". Then the Appellant said "Well can I tell you what happened" and he then under caution made this statement: "The trouble started first on Friday night (21st August 1970) at the fair in Platt Fields. I was there with John Rooney and some other lads. I don't know their names, just faces. That's how it is with us, no names. A gang of skinheads tried to stir it for us, but there was more of them than us and when they started throwing bricks and bottles we ran. A load of us met up last night in the fair. A kid gave me a knife, that one you've got. We met the skinheads and there was a general palaver. One of them jumped on my back someone gave me a knife and I let him have it. We all scarpered. There's no blood on the knife I cleaned it with grass. It reads as though I got the knife before the trouble started. That's not how it was. The knife was passed to me after I was jumped".


In evidence the accused, now the Appellant, admitted this last sentence was untrue because he had the knife before any incident happened at all. In giving his testimony he also said that he was quite unable to explain what his words "I let him have it" meant. He also admitted that at no time before his trial had he said anything which might even hint at the explanation that Reilly had met his death by an accident.


Later the Detective Sergeant Smith showed him a leather jacket and it emerged that he had been wearing it on the night of the tragedy. He said he had borrowed it from another man.


Later charged with the murder of Reilly he replied "It's true". The following morning at the Magistrates' Court he asked Inspector Wright "What happens now". The Inspector said he would apply for a remand in custody and suggested that Mc Innes should ask the Court for legal aid. The Appellant replied "What for", and on being told that he should have a barrister to defend him on the trial of this grave charge, he said "There's no point, I did it".


A number of youths gave evidence for the prosecution, some of them being greasers and friends of the Appellant and some were friends of the deceased man. Not surprisingly their accounts of the events of the Saturday evening were not always in agreement one with the other.


Of the "greasers", Thompson spoke of the accused having the knife in his belt and of a "bloke" who was not a "skinhead" starting fighting with the accused, apparently by first jumping on him. Thompson himself became scared as there were a number of "skinheads" about who were throwing bricks and stones and he, therefore, ran away. He later joined up with Mc Innes, who wiped his knife on the grass, saying "I think I have got somebody". Another important witness was Clarke, who had given the knife to the accused at the fair before any trouble arose. He spoke of Mc Innes bumping into a youth who was not a "skinhead" and who then returned with his "mates". Of these, Reilly grabbed Mc Innes by the neck in a head-lock, one of the two went to the ground and got up, and Clarke then saw that Reilly had blood on him, whereupon the witness walked off. Rooney (another "greaser") said that an argument started between Mc Innes and Reilly, that the latter threw some ashes at the former, and that the two youths then seemed to run at each other, that he then saw a knife in the hand of the accused, who ran off. It should be observed that he, in common with other witnesses, said that there had been no trouble with the "skinheads" up to this incident and that he saw none of them with weapons. Carey spoke of the accused taking out his knife and passing the sheath to him, of then seeing Reilly throw dirt in the accused's face, of a fight starting between the two men, of Reilly going "backwards", whereupon Carey ran away.


Of the friends of the deceased, McMullen said that while four of them were talking, some "greasers" deliberately bumped into them at a time when there were no "skinheads" about, that he then saw Reilly wrestling with the accused, and that Reilly turned round and said, "I've been stabbed". He thought the whole incident was over in two to three minutes, and he said it was impossible that Reilly had jumped on the accused. Kennerk said that the accused walked deliberately into their group, that the accused and Reilly started fighting with their fists, that there was punching for one or two minutes, that Reilly and the accused then ran at each other, and that Reilly then went to the ground.


Following upon the learned Judge's rejection of a submission by defence counsel that the Crown had not eliminated either self-defence or provocation, the accused was the sole witness for the defence.


He said that he went to the fair on the Friday night with Wilkinson. He associated himself with greasers on that evening and was wearing a leather jacket. Clarke was in their number. He examined Clarke's knife and there was some discussion of his buying it from him. Later that night he saw a number of skinheads who were abusive towards the greasers. Bottles and stones were thrown and the greasers ran through the skinheads who scattered.


The accused said he had arranged to meet a girl on the Saturday evening, hut as she did not turn up he went to the fair again with Wilkinson and some of his friends. While they were there at one of the sideshows he was told that skinheads were about, but? he did not want any trouble. Clarke then gave him the knife and its sheath and he put it into the top of his trousers.


Later he was involved in a bumping incident with the youth Kennerk, who was a friend of Reilly's. There was an argument about who bumped into whom, but he, the accused, did not want any trouble. He said that they were outnumbered by the skinheads who came up in large numbers shouting "Greasers, bastards, fuck off". Things were being thrown and the skinheads had sawn off hacksaws, bottles and bricks. He decided that he had better go home and he gave the sheath of the knife to Carey because it kept falling off and he put the knife itself back into his trousers.


But he asserted that he had no desire to fight or to use the knife. He said that he did not have an argument with Reilly and that the incident between him and Reilly began with the latter Jumping on his back and putting an arm around Mc Innes' neck. He continued "I felt something cold on my neck. I thought it might be a knife. After I chucked him over my back I thought it might be a watch or a bracelet".


He said that Reilly then got up off the ground and punched him, but he returned the punch and Reilly in consequence went down on one knee. Reilly then picked up some dirt and threw it in his face, whereupon he drew the knife, told Reilly "Don't come any fucking closer" and stood with the knife held roughly at his hip. He said that Reilly jumped him "as though he was going daft and went straight on to the knife". Neither Rooney nor Bailey had heard any remark by the accused about telling him not to come closer, and when the learned Judge came...

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