DPP v Conroy (No 2)

Judgment Date01 January 1989
Date01 January 1989
Docket Number[No. 66 of 1987 S.C.]
CourtSupreme Court
The People (D.P.P.) v. Conroy (No. 2)
The People (at the suit of The Director of Public Prosecutions)
Charles Conroy (No. 2)
[No. 66 of 1987 S.C.]

Supreme Court

Criminal law - Sentence - Manslaughter - Appellant charged with murder - Plea of guilty to manslaughter accepted - Sentence of life imprisonment imposed - Lesser sentences imposed on co-accused - Whether sentence excessive - Plea of guilty as mitigation of sentence - Whether trial judge should have considered disparity with sentences imposed on co-accused - Whether sentence destroyed prospect of rehabilitation of appellant.

The appellant, who was then aged thirty-one, was the eldest of four men who forcibly entered the house of an elderly woman for the purpose of robbery. The woman was beaten and tied to a chair and the house was ransacked; a small amount of money was taken. The four men then travelled together in the appellant's car, stopping at a shop where the appellant purchased some pairs of nylon tights tube used as masks. They forcibly entered a house occupied by two elderly men. Each of the men was severely beaten. One of them died shortly afterwards as a result of his injuries, while the other died in hospital some weeks later.

The appellant had no previous criminal convictions of significance. One of the four men was convicted of murder and was sentenced to penal servitude for life. The two others, who were eighteen years of age at the time of the commission of the offences, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were each sentenced to nine years' penal servitude. The appellant stood trial on two occasions for murder. The first trial resulted in a disagreement, while the conviction in the second trial was set aside by the Supreme Court on a point of law. He subsequently pleaded guilty to burglary in respect of the first incident and to one charge of manslaughter in respect of the second. He was sentenced in the Central Criminal Court to twelve years' imprisonment and to penal servitude for life, respectively.

On the appellant's appeal from the Central Criminal Court to the Supreme Court against the severity of the sentence imposed upon him, it was

Held by the Supreme Court (Finlay C.J., Walsh, Henchy, Griffin and McCarthy JJ.) in allowing the appellant's appeal, 1, that there was no principle appropriate to the question of sentencing which would inhibit a court from imposing the maximum permissible sentence for manslaughter, which had for over a hundred years been penal servitude for life, merely on the grounds that such a sentence had not been imposed in recent times.

2. That to impose the same sentence in respect of a plea of guilty to manslaughter as would have been imposed had the appellant been convicted of murder was not an error in principle; there was no presumption that a particular instance of the crime of manslaughter could not, from a sentencing point of view, be as serious as, or more serious than, an instance of the crime of murder.

3. That, whereas an early admission of guilt coupled with a confirming plea of guilty could be a substantial mitigating factor, especially in cases where additional distress to injured parties was thereby avoided, the plea of guilty was of negligible importance in this case since the appellant had pleaded not guilty in two previous trials and the injured parties were dead.

4. That an appellate court would examine a disparity in sentences imposed on co-accused in a case where, all other things being equal, the sentences should be the same; one of the factors underlying this principle was the substantial sense of grievance at unfair treatment which might be caused by apparently unequal sentences.

The People (Attorney General) v. Poyning [1972] I.R. 402 considered.

5. That a sentencing court must have regard to the principle that an accused might be rehabilitated, if induced by the length of his sentence to expect to be eventually returned to society.

The People (Attorney General) v. O'Driscoll (1972) 1 Frewen 351 applied.

6. That, having regard to the disparity between the sentences imposed on the appellant and his co-accused and to the necessity of affording him some hope of rehabilitation and re-entry into society, the sentence of penal servitude for life was excessive; an appropriate sentence in the case would have been a period of seventeen years' penal servitude.

Cases mentioned in this report:

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23 cases
  • DPP v McAuley
    • Ireland
    • Court of Criminal Appeal
    • 25 October 2001
    ...I.R. 317; [1987] I.L.R.M. 4. Director of Public Prosecutions v. Byrne [1995] 1 I.L.R.M. 279. The People (D.P.P.) v. Conroy (No. 2) [1989] I.R. 160; [1989] I.L.R.M. 139. R. v. Batchelor [1952] W.N. 244. Criminal law - Sentencing - Manslaughter - Plea of guilty - Leniency - Review - Other off......
  • DPP v Duffy
    • Ireland
    • Court of Criminal Appeal
    • 21 March 2003
    ...Citations: ROAD TRAFFIC ACT 1994 DPP, PEOPLE V THOMPSON UNREP SCC MORRIS 2.5.2001 AG, PEOPLE V POYNING 1972 IR 402 DPP V CONROY 1989 IR 160 DPP V CUNNINGHAM 2002 2 IR 712 2003 1 ILRM 124 2002/8/1937 2002/9/1958 ARCHBOLD CRIMINAL PLEADING, EVIDENCE & PRACTICE 2003 R V STROUD 65 CAR 150 R......
  • DPP v Daly
    • Ireland
    • Court of Criminal Appeal
    • 20 October 2011
    ...two or more persons involved in the same criminal offence. The first, identified by Finlay C.J. in The People (D.P.P.) v Conroy (No.2) [1989] I.R. 160 is the substantial sense of grievance at unfair treatment which may be caused by apparently unequal sentences. It could be added that the a......
  • DPP v Mahon
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 11 April 2019
    ...are matters such as the circumstances in which the victim died, and the conduct of the accused. In The People (DPP) v Conroy (No 2) [1989] IR 160 at 163, Finlay CJ rejected the proposition that a sentence for manslaughter could never be one of life imprisonment: Having regard to the multip......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Recommended Irish reforms to the law of murder from the perspective of the Model Penal Code
    • Ireland
    • Hibernian Law Journal No. 10-2011, January 2011
    • 1 January 2011
    ...charge, and that exceptional cases warrant the first degree murder classification which avails of the death penalty. 40 In essence, 34 [1989] I.R. 160 at 163 35 Carney, “Decriminalising Murder?” (2003) NUI Galway 2 LAW C.P.S. 2003, p.2 36 Law Reform Commission, Report on Sentencing (LRC 53–......

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