Thursday 27 October 2016

Killer already turns thoughts to sentence appeal

Published 14/06/2016 | 02:30

David Mahon pictured outside the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Pic Collins Courts
David Mahon pictured outside the Central Criminal Court in Dublin. Pic Collins Courts

Within minutes of David Mahon being sentenced over the manslaughter of his wife's son, Dean Fitzpatrick, it was clear his legal team was already contemplating an appeal against the severity of his jail term.

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The seven-year sentence imposed by Ms Justice Margaret Heneghan was by no means the worst outcome Mahon could have expected.

Indeed the judge noted during the hearing that the appropriate sentence in the circumstances, before taking mitigating and aggravating factors into account, would have been 10 years.

It had been open to her to impose anything up to life in prison, the maximum allowable for manslaughter.

Appealing against the severity of a sentence is no easy task.

The Court of Appeal will read the written record of a trial, to see the judge's reasons for giving a particular sentence.

As a rule, appeal court judges will not change a sentence just because they would have given a different sentence had they been presiding over the case.

Instead, they will only consider altering a sentence if they believe the trial judge made an error on a legal point.

Should an appeal be lodged, Mahon's lawyers will have to prove that the trial judge made a mistake by not taking all relevant factors into account in deciding the appropriate term.

There have been instances in the past where this has been done successfully, but there have only been a small number of cases.

Ms Justice Heneghan spent a considerable period yesterday explaining her decision to impose seven years. The judge noted the aggravating factors, which included the gravity of the crime, the fact Mahon had a knife and that he had produced it in the circumstances in which he did.

But she also gave much weight to the mitigating factors which emerged during the trial.

These included medical and personal difficulties experienced by Mahon and the fact he had no previous history of violence.

Weight was also given to the fact Mahon had apologised through his barrister to all those who knew Mr Fitzpatrick.

The fact Mahon had offered an early plea to manslaughter, which was rejected by the Director of Public Prosecutions, was a consideration.

Victim impact statements and testimonials on behalf of Mahon were also taken into account.

Mahon's legal team are expected to study the sentencing in the coming weeks, before deciding a course of action.

Irish Independent

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