Sunday 22 April 2018

Drug addict who burgled and burned home of widower (81) has appeal against sentence dismissed

Photo: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing
Photo: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A drug addict who burgled and burned the home of an 81-year-old widower, who had to be restrained by neighbours from retrieving memorobilia of his late wife, has lost an appeal against sentence.

Martin Doyle (25), of Mount Eden Rise, Gurranbraher, Cork had pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to burglary and arson at the home of a then 81-year-old man on Blarney Street, in the city on October 15, 2014.

One year earlier, Doyle had been given a three-year sentence for robbery but it was suspended in full in the hope that he would deal with his heroin addiction.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin immediately reactivated the three-year suspended sentence and proceeded, on June 17, 2015, to impose a seven year sentence with the final two years suspended to run consecutively – leaving Doyle with a net sentence of 10 years with two suspended.

He lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence today, with the Court of Appeal holding that the overall sentence “could not be described as excessive”.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the burglary and arson were “extremely serious” offences.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the victim of the burglary was now an 85-year-old widower who lived alone. He had left his home on the date in question to go shopping in Dunnes Stores.

When he returned, he was unable to get into his home and noticed smoke coming out of his roof. He managed to get the door open only to find house in flames and smoke, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

The then 81-year-old had to be restrained by neighbours from entering his home in order to collect memorobilia from his life, particulary, memorobilia of his late wife, the judge said.

The widower's house had to be totally rebuilt and he was homeless for seven months. He was particularly concerned at losing memorobilia of his late wife. His insurance company was at a loss of €153,000.

Giving background to the robbery offence of November 10, 2012, Mr Justice Sheehan said the injured party had been walking along Wellington Road in Cork when two men, including Doyle, came upon him. He was kicked and punched a number of times and had a shoulder bag containing a number of items taken from him.

Doyle had 25 previous convictions at the time including a record for burglaries and robberies, the unlawful taking of vehicles and public order offences. He had been imprisoned eight times previously.

Mr Justice Sheehan said a suspended sentence was imposed in respect of the robbery “in the hope that he would deal with his heroin addiction”.

The sentecing judge said the arson showed a “mindless disrespect” for property and drugs did not excuse his behaviour. He placed the burglary on the higher end of the scale because, not only did Doyle go into the house, but he burned the place also.

Forensics disclosed that a fire was started in three different locations in the house, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

While the burglary on its own would not normally attract seven years, there can be no doubt that seven years in respect of the arson “could not be described as excessive”, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Doyle had been given an opportunity to deal with his addiction when the three year sentence for robbery was suspended.

On the subsequent sentencing date, the Circuit Court judge sought to incorporate the penal aim of rehabilitation by suspending the final two years on terms that would oblige Doyle to subject himself to probation and welfare services.

“Needless to say, the appelant (Doyle) must now take personal responsibility for his addiction,” Mr Justice Sheehan said.

The Court of Appeal was satisfied, Mr Justice Sheehan said, that all aggravating and mitigating factors were adequatly taken into account and while the sentencing judge may not have expressly referred to the totality principle, it was difficult to disclose an error in the overall sentence.

“The overall sentece, although significant, cannot be described as excessive.”

Accordingly, Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, dismissed the appeal.

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