Heroin addict faces longer jail sentence over house blaze
A drug addict jailed for setting fire to a house with a mother and young child inside faces an increased prison sentence following an appeal by prosecutors.
Robert Murphy (32), with an address at Fortlawn Avenue, Blanchardstown, Dublin, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possessing a knife in the Fortlawn Park area on May 14, 2012, discharging a firearm at a premises in Fortlawn Park on July 7, 2012 and arson at Kiltipper Drive, Tallaght on November 27, 2013.
Judge Desmond Hogan handed Murphy an effective sentence of four years imprisonment with five suspended last October. The Court of Appeal agreed yesterday with counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Fergal Foley BL, that Murphy’s sentence was “unduly lenient”.
The three judge court will impose a new sentence on him at a later date.
Mr Foley told the court that a garda found Murphy “equipped with” a flick knife – a very dangerous weapon – in the Fortlawn Park area in May 2012.
While on bail for that incident Murphy discharged a sawn-off shotgun at the door of a house, injuring the householder with superficial wounds as he retreated up the stairs,” Mr Foley said.
Again, while on bail for that offence, Mr Foley said Murphy set fire to a house occupied by a mother and young child in an “absolutely terrifying attack”. It was the most serious of the three offences, he said.
The mother was in bed at the time and “had to escape through a bedroom window with her child”, Mr Foley said, though counsel for Murphy, Seán Gillane, disputed that fact following counsel’s submissions.
Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan asked Mr Foley if he knew why Murphy was given station bail before committing the second and third offences when he was a known heroin addict.
Mr Foley told the judge that the gardaí would have to answer that question.
He described Murphy as a “career criminal” with 60 previous convictions, six of which were for possession of knives.
Mr Foley said Murphy’s sentence for each offence was unduly lenient but taken as a whole, where there was more time suspended than to be served, was also unduly lenient.
Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice George Birmingham, said it was “unduly lenient” to suspend such periods of Murphy’s sentences for the shotgun and arson offences.
Because the court was dealing with separate offences, Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would impose a new sentence on Murphy at a later date.