News Courts

Saturday 23 August 2014

DPP appeal after farm terror thug walks free

Gordon Deegan

Published 29/03/2014 | 02:30

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Joseph Lernihan, one of three men involved in an attack on an elderly farmer.

THE Director of Public Prosecutions is to appeal against the 'undue leniency' of a sentence handed down to a man who terrorised a Clare farmer.

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Joseph Lernihan (21) was one of three men involved in an attack on bachelor Michael McMahon (68) at his home.

The case caused national outrage after it emerged that a terrified Mr McMahon abandoned his home in the early hours of February 26, 2012 to cycle 30 miles throughout the night to Ennis to check himself into a nursing home there.

Lernihan (21), of Finnanon Park, Mullagh, Co Clare, walked free from Ennis Court earlier this month after being given a three-year suspended jail term. He was convicted of robbing the pensioner.

The Courts Service has now confirmed that it has received an appeal from the DPP against the 'undue leniency' of the sentence.

The appeal will be heard by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

Shane Donnellan (20), of Clohanbeg, Cree, also walked free after receiving a three-year suspended jail term. A third man, Noel Garry (20) of Tullycrine, Kilrush, was jailed for three years for robbing Mr McMahon.

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Yesterday, solicitor for all three, Patrick Moylan confirmed that an appeal by the DPP had been received in relation to Lernihan, but that no appeal had been lodged concerning the suspended sentence handed down to Donnellan or the term imposed on Garry.

The deadline for lodging appeals was yesterday.

Mr McMahon was robbed by a gang on two separate nights in February 2012 and Lernihan was the only culprit before the courts convicted of robbing Mr McMahon on both occasions.

Mr McMahon has not returned home since the second attack and remains in nursing care today in Kilrush – more than two years on.

Over the two nights, around €7,000 in cash was robbed from Mr McMahon.

Mr McMahon was put in "absolute fear" over the two nights with the robbers making threats on the second occasion that they were going to return to rob him for a third time – this time for €50,000.

At the time, Mr McMahon was living alone in the rural, remote location two miles from the village of Cooraclare without any electricity or running water and had cash in his home from an inheritance the man received from America.

Mr Moylan said yesterday: "The judge in this case had an incredibly hard job to do. On the one hand, he was dealing with a very serious offence and on the other, he was dealing with a young man who had no previous convictions and had a very good employment history.

"Mr Lernihan was a man, then aged 19, who unfortunately fell in with the wrong crowd and was easily led. He made a mistake, but recognises that mistake and was remorseful in every way he could be."

The solicitor said that the presiding judge, Judge Carroll Moran, "had the dilemma of compounding Mr Lernihan's mistake by imprisoning him or giving him a suspended sentence whereby if Mr Lernihan re-offended, he would be sentencing himself to a time in prison".

It is unlikely that the appeal will be heard for 18 months.

Irish Independent

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