DPP v Connor

JudgeMs. Justice Ní Raifeartaigh
Judgment Date28 September 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] IECA 255
Docket Number243/2019
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Date28 September 2020

[2020] IECA 255

Birmingham P.

McCarthy J.

Ní Raifeartaigh J.



JUDGMENT of the Court delivered on the 28th day of September, 2020 by Ms. Justice Ní Raifeartaigh

This is an application by the DPP pursuant to s. 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993, seeking to review a sentence of two and a half years imprisonment, suspended in its entirety, on the grounds of undue leniency.


The respondent pleaded guilty in July 2019 to the following offences: (i) assault causing harm contrary to s. 3 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 (“NFOAPA 1997”); (ii) false imprisonment contrary to s. 15 of the same Act; and (iii) production of a knife in the course of a dispute contrary to s. 11 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1997. The pleas were entered on a “full facts” basis and a further count of threat to kill or cause serious harm contrary to s. 5 of the NFOAPA 1997 was taken into consideration.

Factual Background

On 5th May, 2018, Garda Cahalin attended at a house at Letterkenny, Co. Donegal where he met the injured party, Bríd Pierce. When he arrived at the scene, she was dishevelled and visibly injured with blood pouring down her face, and her house was a mess. There were knives on the floor and she had some blonde hair in a zip-locked bag which she said had been ripped from her head by the respondent. The respondent had been living in her house up until that morning. As Garda Cahalin started to take notes, a call came through from Letterkenny Garda Station that a person had appeared there saying that they had been involved in an assault. He went to the station and met the respondent who was then arrested and detained. He then returned to the home of the injured party and took a detailed statement from her.


The injured party explained that she first met the respondent in November 2017 and they were in a romantic relationship until March 2018. From January 2018, the parties lived together; after the relationship ended, they continued to live together in a platonic landlord/tenant situation. On the morning of 5th May, 2019, the injured party asked the respondent to leave the house and return his key as there had been a disagreement over non-payment of rent and food bills. That evening, at 5.20pm the respondent returned to the house but was told by her that he did not live there anymore. The respondent then forced open the door, pushed her back and came into the kitchen. She had been peeling vegetables and the respondent picked up the knife, said “this is not a knife” and threw it into the sink. He then picked up a serrated bread knife and said “this is a knife”. He knocked the knife block on to the floor and began throwing things around the kitchen. The respondent then knocked the mobile phone out of the injured party's hand and pushed her up against the cooker. She reached for the phone but he continued to act in a threatening manner, holding her against the cooker and making stabbing actions to her face and head. The respondent then held her in a corner and began banging her head against a press, holding her head for grip. The injured party said that he cut her face and blood was pouring down her face. She tried to go towards the open door he caught up with her. He then started to punch her in her face with a closed fist until she fell to the ground. The assault came to an end only after the he punched her so hard that he lost his balance and fell over. She managed to get up again and tried to go towards the gate. At that stage, the respondent walked out the driveway past her. The injured party noted that the respondent was very drunk.


Gardaí took photographs of the scene and the injured party was taken to hospital where she received stitching to her head.

The investigation


The respondent was interviewed and accepted a lot of the allegations made against him but said that he could not remember a lot of it. He explained that there had been an altercation between himself and the injured party earlier in the day and that he had gone drinking afterwards. He accepted that “as [the injured party] was trying to make her way through the door, I stopped her and I punched her”. He also told Gardaí that he had assaulted the injured party by punching her two or three times to the head.


In cross-examination of the Garda officer, it was confirmed that the respondent went to the Garda Station within twenty minutes of the attack and that he had not come to the attention of Gardaí since then. It was also confirmed that he was extremely drunk when he arrived at the Garda Station which was one of the reasons why he was not interviewed until the following day. The Garda in question agreed that the respondent had an attitude of cooperation and politeness while in custody and when he was on bail. It was also confirmed that he was keeping in touch regularly to make sure that he was fully in compliance with the conditions of his bail and that he had written a letter in which he set out his remorse and his concern for the injured party.


The respondent pleaded guilty to the offences at an early opportunity.

Victim Impact Statement


The injured party completed a victim impact statement in which she described how shocking the attack had been. She wrote about the “euphoria of having escaped” and of being alive for some time after the attack. The physical injuries healed but her immune system was affected; her weight dropped to under eight stone and she was had to complete numerous courses of antibiotics throughout the year following the attack. She described how the attack had affected her overall trust and how she has been attending counselling. She described having a “terrible fear and state of numb depression” and explained how it feels like her “entire energy is usurped in just existing and preventing her family from worrying should they actually [realise] how deeply this vile attack has affected [her]”. She went on to speak about the effects on her family members, including her eldest son who is in the final year of his college degree. She described having an alarm installed at her home and explained how even the most simple household tasks are now a chore, “a cloud of depression and negativity” now being her “constant companion”. It is clear from the victim impact report that the attack had a severe and lasting impact upon her.

The Respondent's Personal Circumstances

The respondent was born on 17th December, 1976. He is a qualified accountant and had been employed in that area for a number of years but now works in the construction industry as a bricklayer. He is very involved in the care of his elderly father who suffers from dementia. He has an alcohol problem which had become significantly worse around the time of the assault. He has one previous conviction for driving without due consideration for which he was fined on 13th November, 2017.


A report by Dr Sarah Culligan, Counselling Psychologist of Forensic Psychological Services, dated 25th October, 2019, provided greater insight into the respondent's background. His family background was very normal until he was ten years old when his younger brother died as a result of a cot death and the family were devastated. He himself became ill with a bowel problem which went undiagnosed for two years and resulted in him being in pain and absent from school. He has one son from a relationship he had in his late teens but has no relationship with the mother or the child. The forensic psychologist noted that he had experienced several significant adverse life events including the death of his baby brother, his health problems as a child, a traumatic incident where he saw his own son almost choke in his home, and his own involvement in a serious road traffic accident which resulted in head injuries and his being in a coma for a number of weeks.


The respondent had not previously attended counselling or psychological services. The forensic psychologist's impression was that while the respondent presented as emotionally resilient on the surface he was in fact...

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  • Director of Public Prosecutions v Boles
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 21 July 2023
    ...into sentencing by the court below, and in so arguing he quoted from Ní Raifeartaigh J.'s judgment in The People (DPP) v. Connor [2020] IECA 255, as to the existence of a need to “ mark society's strong condemnation of such behaviour and send out a clear message of general deterrence”. Fund......

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