Thursday 27 June 2019

Man jailed for killing his partner's ex-husband on Christmas Eve has prison sentence increased

David Shanley.
David Shanley.

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A man jailed for killing his partner's ex-husband on Christmas Eve has had his prison sentence increased following an appeal by prosecutors.

David Shanley (48), of Courtown Harbour, Gorey, Co Wexford was originally charged with the murder of John Lawlor (48) who bled to death at his house at Ballintray Lower, in Gorey on Christmas Eve 2014. Shanley pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter and this plea was accepted by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He was sentenced to five years imprisonment with the final two-and-a-half suspended by Mr Justice Paul Butler on October 24, 2016.

In sentencing, Mr Justice Butler said the victim, who was a father of three, had been a “much loved son, brother, father and grandfather”.

He said Shanley eventually “accepted responsibility for his actions” even though he had originally tried to “deflect any responsibility” by telling gardai that the struggle with Mr Lawlor had been a “fight for survival”.

Noting the unusual nature of the wound, “which was just below the knee”, the judge accepted that Shanley could not have predicted that his actions would have had “fatal consequences”.

The Court of Appeal found Shanley's sentence to be “unduly lenient” today on foot of an application for a review of sentence brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He was accordingly sentenced to six-and-a-half years imprisonment with the final three suspended.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said Shanley was in a long term relationship with Mr Lawlor's ex-wife, who had separated from the deceased some 10 years previously.

Earlier that day, she had asked Mr Lawlor to mind their 10-year-old daughter while she did some Christmas shopping. She contacted her ex-husband to organise the logistics of gathering presents and a dispute arose over Mr Lawlor’s availability.

Shanley sent a number of menacing text messages to Mr Lawlor none of which he responded to. That night Shanley went to the home of Mr Lawlor with a knife in his pocket for what he said was his self-defence.

Mr Lawlor opened the door and immediately assaulted Shanley with punches and kicks.

In the course of the struggle, Shanley stabbed the deceased in the lower leg just below the knee. It lacerated a vericose vein which resulted in massive loss of blood and death.

He was found lying inside his house already dead while Shanley was lying outside semi-conscious.

Shanley initially said Mr Lawlor had taken his own life and that the purpose of his visit was to wish him a Happy Christmas.

As is often the situation in manslaughter cases, Mr Justice Mahon said there were a number of unusual circumstances.

It was evident that quite a violent struggle ensued in the course of which Mr Lawlor suffered the leg wound. Shanley had what might be described as defensive wounds and, unusually for the deceased, a relative minor cut to the leg resulted in massive loss of blood and death.

According to the medical evidence, the wound would not normally be expected to lead to this result.

Mr Justice Mahon said it was unusual that a stab wound would be inflicted to the lower leg, rather than the upper body, the inference being that Shanley never intended to stab the deceased or only intended to inflict a minor wound.

Of greatest import was the fact that Shanley brought a knife to the deceased's home.

Evidence of damage to the door was evidence that Shanley was holding the knife when Mr Lawlor opened the door and it was clear from the text messages Shanley had sent earlier that day that he was angry and “seeking a confrontation”.

Mr Justice Mahon said the fallout from the events that took place that day “were and are immense”. Mr Lawlor lost his life and his family had been left devastated.

Shanley and his family were also badly affected but in this regard, Shanley was the author of his own misfortune, the judge said.

In mitigation, Shanley accepted responsibility for Mr Lawlor's death. He had no relevant previous convictions and was sentenced as a person of previous good character. He was heavily involved in the care of his partner who had significant medical issues.

In the Court of Appeal's view, the five year sentence with half of that suspended, was inappropriate, “unduly lenient” and required to be quashed.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court would resentence Shanley to six-and-a-half years imprisonment with the final three years suspended.

Shanley was required to enter into a good behaviour bond for the suspended period and her undertook to be so bound.

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