Thursday, July 14, 2022

Paul Neilan

A bench warrant has been issued by the Court of Appeal for a young man convicted of using a knife to threaten his social worker, who said he feared for his life during the ordeal.

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is appealing what it believes to be an unduly lenient sentence imposed upon Jason Byrne who was sentenced to six months in jail in June last year for the offence.

Byrne (21), of Roseville Court, Newbridge, Co Kildare, was convicted at Naas Circuit Criminal Court on October 20th, 2020, for producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury at a Tusla facility at Roseville on September 23rd, 2018, when he was 17 years old.

He had pleaded guilty to the offence, which is contrary to Section 11 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990.

At the time of the offence, Byrne had no previous convictions but by the time of his sentencing he had amassed 12 convictions.

Judge Mary O’Malley Costello sentenced Byrne to 12 months’ imprisonment with the final six months suspended for nine months, during which time he was to engage with probation services.

The DPP is appealing the sentence on grounds that it did not “adequately reflect the nature of the charge and the consequences or effect on the victim”.

In his submission to the court, Seoirse Ó Dúnlaing BL, for the DPP, says that the sentencing judge also erred in principle by giving “undue weight to mitigating factors”, not giving sufficient weight to “a subsequent history of offending” and that Byrne was assessed by probation services to be someone with a “high risk of reoffending”.

Threats

At his sentencing hearing, Garda Niamh Redican gave evidence that Byrne had been living alone in an upstairs apartment at the Tusla facility when he came downstairs to the staff kitchen at around 8pm.

The hearing heard that Byrne became aggressive and demanded money from petty cash and food. Byrne then made threats towards a social worker in the kitchen, saying that he would stab and kill him.

The social worker left to see if there was any petty cash and when he returned Byrne had a chair over his head and ran at the victim, stopping short of hitting him.

Later that night, Byrne told the social worker that he had been taking pills and using cocaine that day, before again becoming aggressive and threatening the man with a knife.

Byrne eventually put down the knife and told the man to sleep with one eye open. In his statement to gardaí, the man said he was in fear for his life and “thought it was the end”.

On Thursday at the Court of Appeal, Kevin Roche BL told the non-jury court that he had been given no instruction as to why Byrne did not appear.

Presiding judge George Birmingham said the court would issue a bench warrant for Byrne and noted that his original trial had been delayed because Byrne went to Derby in the UK and had not been interviewed by gardaí until he was 18 years old.

Mr Justice Birmingham said that the ball was in Byrne’s court, as he had been given the opportunity to work with probation services and had previously received positive reports on his progress from probation workers and gardaí.

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