A man who effectively tortured his pregnant girlfriend by pouring boiling water over her, after first adding sugar to the water increasing its boiling point, has been given extra prison time by the Court of Appeal.
Michael Lynch (25), had pleaded not guilty to assault causing harm to his four-and-a-half month pregnant girlfriend Tara Byrd (25) at their house on the Old Youghal Road in Cork city on July 27, 2015.
A jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court found him guilty of assault but acquitted him of making threats to kill on the same occasion. He was sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment by Judge David Riordan on June 7, 2016.
Lynch lost an appeal against his conviction today on all grounds.
However, in a cross appeal, the Director of Public Prosecutions successfully sought a review of his sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.
Giving judgment in the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said Lynch had been living with the victim when he poured boiling water, to which he had first added sugar, from a kettle onto her left leg, causing her severe injury.
At the time Ms Byrd was four-and-a-half months pregnant.
She suffered third degree burns to her leg, spent approximately ten days in hospital and underwent skin graft surgery. She has been left with severe scarring of her left leg.
Immediately following the incident, the victim told a number of people – including paramedics and medical staff - that she had spilled the boiling water over herself as she was making coffee.
Four days later, she told her father that Lynch was responsible.
When interviewed by gardaí, Lynch stated that she had spilt the boiling water over herself.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ray Boland BL, submitted that the sentencing judge erred in placing the severity of the assault at the mid to high range rather than at the high range of assaults.
Mr Justice Mahon said the offence was particularly serious. It was a “pre-meditated, callous and merciless assault on an innocent woman in a domestic setting”.
“The fact that sugar was added to the water before it was boiled places the gravity of the offence at the very highest level” because “in reality, it amounted to torture”.
The court heard that sugar increases the point at which water boils.
Mr Justice Mahon said the Court of Appeal believed the offence warranted a headline sentence at the maximum – five years.
The mitigating factors included Lynch's difficult personal circumstances and his relative young age of 24.
Mr Justice Mahon said it appeared that the sentencing judge treated as a mitigating factor the fact the offence was not committed while on bail in relation to another section 3 assault conviction.
On the contrary, Mr Justice Mahon said, a previous conviction can never be a mitigating factor. In many instances it will be an aggravating factor.
Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, said two-and-a-half years for this “very grave offence was unduly lenient”.
“With some reluctance” and giving Lynch greater benefit for the mitigating factors than “perhaps they probably deserve” the court suspended the final 12 months on condition he entered into a good behaviour bond for the suspended period.
Lynch accordingly undertook to be so bound.