independent

Sunday 21 September 2014

Men jailed for extortion have terms reduced

Published 09/08/2014 | 12:00

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THREE men who were found guilty of extorting more than €60,000 from a Dundalk man and jailed for a total of 26 years have succeeded in getting their sentences reduced.

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Gerard Stokes (33), 1 Park 1, Muirhevnamor; David McDonagh (35), whose address was given as Reask Court, Navan; and James McDonagh (47), 55 Grange Drive, Muirhevnamor, were jailed two years ago after they forced Parnell Park father-of-four Niall Hearty to hand over €57,000 on two separate occasions in Dundalk, during July 2009.

A jury of nine women and three men took less than an hour to convict the trio on two counts each of demanding money with menaces following a four-day trial at Dundalk Circuit Court in July 2012.

Stokes was later sentenced to eight years by Judge Ray Fullam, while David McDonagh got 10 years and James McDonagh was also given eight years.

But last week at the Criminal Court of Appeal (CCA), Stokes and James McDonagh had two years cut from their sentences, while David McDonagh benefited from a three-year reduction.

During the hearing, Stokes's barrister Grainne O'Neill made a submission in which she claimed that the trial judge's starting point for sentencing was too high and that there was insufficient weight given to mitigating factors and the remorse of her client.

Ms O'Neill also said that there had been excessive weight given to the victim impact report 'in this particular case'.

Barrister Garnet Orange, for the DPP, said the original sentence had been appropriate as the three appellants had carefully chosen their victim as 'someone who was going to roll over and give them what they wanted' and that they 'went to the well more than once'.

However, the three-judge court accepted Ms O'Neill's submission with regard to the sentence imposed on the three men.

Presiding CCA judge Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said: 'The court is of the view that he (the trial judge) fell into error by setting the tariff so high. We don't think that there was any error in the way he dealt with the victim impact report.'

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