Garda murder accused has 'pattern of self-dramatising behaviour' in confrontations with gardaí

Stephen Silver (46) has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Detective Garda Colm Horkan
Garda murder accused has 'pattern of self-dramatising behaviour' in confrontations with gardaí

Eoin Reynolds

Garda murder accused Stephen Silver has shown a "pattern of self-dramatising behaviour" to bring about confrontations and negotiations with gardaí, a consultant psychiatrist has told the Central Criminal Court.

Professor Harry Kennedy told Mr Silver's trial that in previous encounters with gardaí during his history of involuntary admissions to psychiatric units, Mr Silver displayed behaviours that are not features of typical bipolar disorder.

He added: "They are angry and confrontational and dramatic. What happens in the course of mental illness is that ordinary personality features are exaggerated...that’s a product not of illness but of underlying personality."

Professor Kennedy disagreed with the assessment of Dr Brenda Wright, who told the trial that Mr Silver's responsibility for the shooting was diminished due to a relapse of bipolar disorder.

Professor Kennedy said a report on one previous encounter in September 2006 noted that gardaí went to Mr Silver's apartment and he emerged from his bedroom with a long sword, dressed in a black helmet and leather gear.

After a period, Mr Silver put away the sword, lay down and allowed gardaí to handcuff him and later had tea with them at the Garda station.

Prof Kennedy said this was an example of seriously threatening behaviour with a "high probability of causing harm" which showed Mr Silver was familiar with enacting personal dramas involving confrontation with gardaí.

He asserted his control and "mastery of the situation" and then became compliant to bring an end to the confrontation, the professor said.

'Self-dramatising behaviour'

He pointed to other incidents which he said "illustrate a pattern of self-dramatising behaviour" in which Mr Silver would control a dramatic interaction with gardaí. He said such behaviour is not a feature of bipolar disorder.

Mr Silver (46), a motorbike mechanic from Aughavard, Foxford, Co Mayo, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Detective Garda Colm Horkan knowing or being reckless as to whether he was a member of An Garda Síochána acting in accordance with his duty.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility, at Castlerea, Co Roscommon on June 17th, 2020.

Prof Kennedy told prosecution counsel, Michael Delaney SC, that in Mr Silver's account of the encounter with Gda Horkan, he described a series of "purposeful actions" such as taking control of the gun, pulling the trigger, standing back, supporting the gun with both hands, pointing and aiming and choosing to fire at the Mr Silver's trunk.

He did not throw the gun away but fired repeatedly.

The professor said the capacity to form intent can be inferred from purposeful actions, where a person does "one thing after another, after another".

Professor Kennedy said there was further evidence that when gardaí arrived at the scene moments after the shooting, Mr Silver was able to make a decision to obey gardaí by getting on the ground, but also decided to what extent he would cooperate by refusing to be handcuffed around the back but allowing gardaí to handcuff him to the front.

Prof Kennedy said this was a decision made for his own comfort and based on his past experience dealing with gardaí. His interactions with gardaí showed he was able to act in his own interests, he added.

In his garda interviews, Mr Silver showed "strength of will", resisted attempts by gardaí to build rapport and showed himself to be "not at all suggestible".

At one point, he feigned sleep for several minutes while gardaí asked him questions, the professor said, showing an "intact ability to act reflectively and not impulsively and having regard to his own best interest as he sees it".

He said "fleeting" ideas Mr Silver had the day prior to the shooting about a woman he was seeing being a member of MI6 were not fixed false beliefs and therefore not delusions.

He disagreed with Dr Wright's view that Mr Silver's decision to give away a motorbike to an old acquaintance earlier on the day of the shooting was evidence of his mental illness relapse.

Professor Kennedy said that the accused told gardaí that he gave the bike away because he had too many and was thinking about getting rid of some of them.

The professor said this was a reasonable and rational explanation for why he did what he did.

Professor Kennedy's evidence will continue on Friday.

Disagreement

Mr Delaney had earlier finished his cross-examination of Dr Wright in which he put to her various opinions advanced by Prof Kennedy.

She said she disagreed with Prof Kennedy when he said that Mr Silver was engaging in "hostile repartee" when he became aggressive during interview and told gardaií he was a captain in the 62nd Cavalry.

She replied: "The suggestion of hostile repartee should be considered, but what is evident is the level of hostility and the types of behaviour in those interviews which is not adequately explained by hostility, it is in my view suggestive of mental illness."

Mr Delaney said that at one point in the interviews Inspector Brian Hanley began putting evidence to Mr Silver while the accused was singing, speaking in Irish, making hostile jokes at the expense of the detectives, and looking out the window.

Mr Delaney said the professor's view was that this was not evidence of mania or psychosis but "a defensive effort to avoid the evidence being put to him".

Dr Wright said Mr Silver's behaviour was "so bizarre and unusual that it is more in keeping with a mental illness". She said it would have been more appropriate for Mr Silver to reply, "no comment", if he did not want to engage.

She said the level of hostility he showed was unusual and could not be "adequately explained simply by hostility towards gardaí".

Mr Silver's records, she said, showed that when he became well following treatment after his 17 admissions to psychiatric units and after he had been treated at the Central Mental Hospital in 2020, he was described as "easy to deal with".

His records from Mountjoy Prison did not show him to be erratic, aggressive or hostile.

There was an account of an attempted assault on Mr Silver by a fellow prisoner which the accused "managed in a calm and appropriate way," Dr Wright said. She said this was how she concluded that Mr Silver's behaviour with gardaí was not his normal behaviour.

Mr Delaney said Prof Kennedy noted in his final interview with gardaí that Mr Silver's behaviour became more extreme, but said "no psychiatric explanation was required for this other than Mr Silver's personality".

Dr Wright said Mr Silver's personality does not "adequately account for the types of behaviours he engaged in".

"I have no evidence based on the information I have reviewed that his personality was such that he was inclined to behave habitually in this manner," she added.

Dr Wright also disagreed with an assertion by Prof Kennedy that Mr Silver's previous encounters with gardaí, in which he "behaved badly" but was not prosecuted, "gave rise to a learned impunity".

Mr Delaney said Mr Silver had an "expectation that he would not be dealt with through the criminal law" and being detained and questioned "led to increasing frustration that manifested as increasing rage and hostility towards gardaí".

Dr Wright said Mr Silver's previous episodes of aggression towards gardaí were in the context of relapses of his illness and admission to psychiatric hospitals.

She added: "Mr Silver's behaviour at the interviews is so out of keeping with the gravity of the situation and the context of the garda interviews that it is not sufficiently explained by the term, learned impunity. His behaviour is inappropriate to a degree that is more in keeping with a relapse of his illness."

The trial continues in front of Mr Justice Paul McDermott and a jury of seven men and five women.

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