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Violent shop robber to have 'too-lenient' sentence increased

a man jailed for robbery and possession of an imitation firearm faces an increased prison sentence following an appeal by prosecutors.

Lee McDonnell (23), of Lough Conn Road, Ballyfermot, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit robbery at Sarsfield Service Station, Ballyfermot, on January 21, 2012.

McDonnell also pleaded guilty to robbery of cigarettes and a sunglasses case and to robbery of the shop assistant on the same occasion.

He was sentenced to six years with the final three suspended by Judge Martin Nolan on November 19, 2012.


The Director of Public Prosecutions successfully appealed McDonnell's three-year jail term yesterday on grounds that it was unduly lenient.

The appeal was due to be heard before the three-judge Court of Appeal last December, but the court was told on that occasion that McDonnell was "not present" and was "not going to be produced due to circumstances beyond anybody's control".

Counsel for the DPP, Michael Bowman, told the court yesterday that the sentencing judge had erred in suspending 50pc of McDonnell's sentence.

The only basis on which half of the sentence was suspended was McDonnell's relative youth, Mr Bowman said. He was 21 at the time of the offence.

Notwithstanding his age, McDonnell had amassed 88 previous convictions, Mr Bowman said.

"Most troubling" was that he had previously received a four-year sanction for hijacking a vehicle, the inference being that a four-year term of imprisonment was not enough to deter a 21-year-old.

Mr Bowman said McDonnell displayed a gratuitous level of violence in the offence.

He said the firearm had become superfluous by the time it was deployed, the robbery had been completed when it was used and the victim was retreating from the shop.

A witness had described the firearm as being "cocked", and little weight could be attached to the fact that it was a replica, Mr Bowman said.

It was used to convey fear and was used to whip or assault the injured party.

McDonnell had used it to the "maximum effect", he said.

Mr Bowman said the judge did not impose a sentence that reflected the gravity of the offending behaviour.


Mr Justice Michael Peart, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said the sentence imposed on McDonnell was "unduly lenient".

Mr Justice Peart said the suspended period effectively reduced McDonnell's sentence to one of three years imprisonment.

Furthermore, the judge said, the firearm offence was "simply taken into account" in the global sense rather than receiving its own sentence.

A new sentencing hearing will take place next month.

There was a heightened security presence in court for the hearing, including two armed gardai.