Thursday, November 17, 2022

Paul Neilan

A convicted sex offender who broke into his ex-partner’s home in the middle of the night and sexually assaulted her after striking her with a hook-like implement in a “jealous rage”, has had his sentence increased by a year following an appeal by the State.

The man (50), who cannot be named to protect the identity of his victim, was sentenced last January to five-and-a-half years’ imprisonment with the final year suspended.

At the Court of Appeal on Thursday, lawyers for the State successfully appealed the unduly lenient sentence which saw the male re-sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

The hearing was told that the accused went to his ex-partner’s home in the middle of the night and brought an improvised gardening instrument with him after sending her threatening messages earlier that day, July 17th, 2020.

The woman was asleep in her upstairs bedroom when her former partner broke into the house. A number of their six children were also present asleep at the residence.

Sexual assault

The male assaulted his former partner in her bedroom with the hook, which was attached to a wooden shaft, but she escaped and went downstairs to the sitting room where a struggle ensued. During that struggle, he sexually assaulted her.

Judge Eugene O’Kelly sentenced the man to five-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for the aggravated burglary with the final year suspended and to five years for the sexual assault with the final six months suspended.

He was also sentenced to four years with the final four months suspended for assault causing harm, to six months for criminal damage and to four years with four months suspended for making threats to kill. He had denied all the charges.

In submissions, the State described the implement as a “sickle-like, adapted hook” used as a gardening tool or for scraping between outdoor tiles.

Conor O’Doherty BL, for the State, said the assault was a “violent, demeaning and degrading” one. Mr O’Doherty said the male, who had pleaded not guilty to all charges, had shown “no remorse” and had offered no apology.

Mr O’Doherty said the facts in the case were “extremely disturbing and shocking” and that there was an “exceptionally graphic nature” to the threatening text messages sent by the accused to his victim before the attack.

The barrister said that the trial judge fell into error when identifying six years as a headline sentence for the aggravated burglary, which he said was “manifestly outside the range” for such offending when looked in its totality.

Mixed bag

Michael O’Higgins SC, for the respondent, said his client was a “mixed bag” but one who had a positive relationship with his six children. All six children, he said, were supportive of both their mother and father and all had written positive testimonials about their father.

Mr O’Higgins said that his client had worked in construction but had developed arthritis and was on disability allowance but did chores around the house. He said the male had been using cocaine for 24 months before the assaults and had been behaving in an “erratic” manner in the run-up to the night in question.

He said his client had received a “significant” sentence for offences committed in a “fit of jealousy” and submitted that the male had not engaged in “pre-planned” offending.

In delivering the Court of Appeal’s judgement, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said the court would quash the original sentence and increase the headline sentence from six years to nine years.

She said the man intruded in her family home with an implement “fuelled by anger and in a jealous rage”. She said he carried out harmful acts designed to humiliate the woman in a prolonged manner.

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