DPP v Cuan de Paor and Another

JudgeMr. Justice Hardiman.
Judgment Date19 December 2008
Neutral Citation[2008] IECCA 137
Date19 December 2008
CourtCourt of Criminal Appeal
Docket Number91 & 92 CJA/08 [2008] IECCA 137

Hardiman J.

Budd J.

McCarthy J.

91 & 92 CJA/08

[2008] IECCA 137



Criminal law - Appeal - Sentence - Application for review of sentence by prosecutor - Principles to be applied - Whether unduly lenient - Criminal Justice Act 1993, section 2

Facts: the defendants had been sentenced to five years imprisonment, the whole of that term suspended by the Circuit Criminal Court in respect of their conviction for robbery contrary to section 14(1) of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act 2001. The defendants had pleaded guilty to the offences and a probation report, with which the prosecuting Garda agreed, was to the effect that the defendant was turning his life around. The prosecutor applied to the Court of Criminal Appeal pursuant to section 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 for a review of the sentences on the grounds that they were unduly lenient.

Held by the Court of Criminal Appeal in dismissing the application:

1. that since the Director of Public Prosecutions brought the appeal, the onus of proof rested on him to show that the sentence was unduly lenient.

2. That the court should always afford great weight to the trial judge’s reasons for imposing the sentence that was called in question as he was the one who received the evidence at first hand and could detect nuances in the evidence that may not be as readily discernible to an appellate court.

3. That, since the finding of the appellate court had to be one of undue leniency, nothing but a substantial departure from what would be regarded as the appropriate sentence would justify the intervention of the court.

Reporter: P.C.


JUDGMENT of the Court delivered on the 19th day of December, 2008 by Mr. Justice Hardiman.


By notice of application for review dated the 20th March, 2008, the Director of Public Prosecutions seeks a review of the sentences imposed on the above named respondents on the 22nd February, 2008, on Bill No. 85/2007 Cork Circuit Criminal Court. This review is sought on the grounds that the sentences were unduly lenient. It is convenient to deal first-named respondent, Cuan de Paor.


A sentence of five years imprisonment suspended for five years was imposed on this respondent in respect of his conviction for robbery contrary to s.1491) of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001. The applicant had pleaded guilty to this offence. He had also pleaded to a further count of robbery according to the same statute and to counts of false imprisonment contrary to s.15 (1) of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. All of these pleas were entered on the 27th June, 2007 and sentence in relation to them was adjourned until the 22nd February, 2008.


The Crime.


The offences to which the respondent pleaded guilty arose out of the fact that on the 17th December, 2006 at approximately 7.30am on a Sunday morning a dwelling house in a suburb of Cork was broken into. Three people including the accused broke into the house, the others were his co-accused and a third person is wanted on warrant. According to the evidence of Detective Sergeant Gerry Crowley at the sentencing hearing, the other two participants planned the event and the person who is missing will have the highest level of culpability. The house was entered through a back window which was left unlocked. The applicants were a married couple and their fifteen year old son. The intruders were wearing Halloween masks and gloves. The man of the house heard a noise and got out of bed. He was confronted by a masked man with a gun who tied him up with flex. His wife was held by another intruder. The occupants were forced to give the combination of a safe but there was little or no money in it. The fifteen year old son of the house was awoken by a man in his bedroom, who was the respondent. He was told to be quiet and to stay lying down. He was tied up and gagged, though very lightly, according to himself. According to the boy, the man with him acted at all times on the instructions of a third person outside the bedroom. At one point he was instructed to kick the boy in the head but he did not do so. The boy was eventually put into a hot press. There was some talk of taking him as a hostage but that did not occur. The intruders then got the pin numbers of three bank cards and laptop, a mobile phone and some Christmas presents. At one point a threat to kill the father was made by one of the other intruders. A total of €2,400.00 was removed from a bank with the stolen cards.


Special features.


The above description indicates the commission of a very serious crime. There are however special features of the offence as far as the accused is concerned. The accused was not convicted of either aggravated burglary contrary to s.13 of the Criminal Justice Act 2001 or of the making of a threat to kill contrary to s.5 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act, 1997. This is because his plea of not guilty in relation to those offences was accepted by the State. This in turn is rather remarkable since on the face of it they would have been entitled to rely on the doctrine of common design to make each accused guilty of all that was done in pursuance of their common purpose at the victims’ house. But the State, represented in this Court by Mr. Donal McCarthy, expressly said that they were not relying on that doctrine and accepted that the accused was not responsible for the possession of a gun or for the making of a threat to kill. This, clearly, is of major advantage to the accused.


The second special feature of the case is that the principal garda witness, Sergeant Crowley, endorsed the terms of a probation report, to be discussed below as follows:

  1. “Q. As to the factual content of that [probation report] where Cuan de Paor is concerned, have you any observation to make as to factual content?

  2. A. As to factual content I feel that they are a fair comment.

  3. Q. Any recommendation and the like is a matter for the judge, but factually are you happy with the contents of that report?

  4. A. I am with them, yes.”


Furthermore the same witness in evidence, speaking of this respondent said:


“I would be satisfied that he was truthful, that his offence or his participation in the offence was certainly lesser than the other two people involved and he was basically I suppose doing their bidding.”


He also said that he believed that the respondent was “genuinely remorseful for what he did”.


The third special feature is the probation report compiled by Ms. Noreen Mulligan on the 5th February, 2008. This establishes that this respondent, now twenty-one- years of age, was nineteen at the time of the offence. He is the second eldest of five children of a very respectable family. The family reside in Galway. He was educated at two well known schools in the Galway area. He had a very promising upbringing until his early teenage years when his behaviour deteriorated to the point to where he was twice asked to leave home and on the second occasion was in fact homeless for a short period. He received psychological attention. Eventually however his abuse of alcohol and drugs came to the point where his parents could no longer cope with his abusive behaviour.


The respondent came to Cork at the age of seventeen, in 2004, to stay with an uncle who gave him employment. He left this for other employment after a period but took to gambling most of his earnings and lost his job.


In relation to the offence, the respondent was at the time of its commission sharing a house with his two co-defendants and a former employer. He had been out drinking earlier on the night of the robbery and had gone home to go to bed. He heard the co-defendants downstairs and went to join them, hoping for more drink. They then told him about their plans and he was invited to go with them which he did. It would appear that the other two defendants, or one of them, had heard about the victims from someone he knew socially and decided that they were appropriate targets for a robbery.


The respondent states that he did not realise the full extent of the plans and was unaware that they had a gun. It is at this point, in particular, that the Detective Sergeant’s endorsement of the accuracy of the probation report is most important. He was later afraid to pull out and specifically afraid that he would be attacked by the co-defendants. He was instructed to “look after the boy” and the evidence was, as recited in the prosecution’s submissions on the hearing of this application, that he treated the boy with some consideration.


Another feature of the case is that, when questioned by the gardaí “Mr. de Paor co-operated with the gardaí and admitted his part in the offence…


his co-operation was certainly able to lead us in certain lines and was a great help to us.” Indeed, it seems unlikely that a case could have been made against the respondent without his own co-operation since the victims of the crime, who were badly frightened, were unable to identify anybody and it does not appear to have been other evidence.


In all the circumstances then, this is a very serious offence committed by a young man for whom there is a good deal to be said on grounds of youth and lack of previous convictions, for he has none. He also appears to have taken a number of constructive steps after he was charged with the offence. Firstly he returned to Galway. He has completed a full time information technology course with Fás, which is the first educational achievement he has had since the Junior Cert. He has now applied for and is attending an advanced course in computerised accounts and payroll...

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5 cases
  • DPP v Hehir
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 17 July 2018
    ...1993 Act the Court should be guided by the principles articulated in the Supreme Court by Hardiman J in DPP v. de Paor & Zdanowski [2008] IECCA 137 at p. 10 as follows:- 'In DPP. v. Byrne [1995] 1 ILRM 279, said to be the first application brought under s.2 (1) of the Criminal Justice Act......
  • DPP v Lawlor
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 17 July 2018
    ...Court by O'Flaherty J. in DPP v. Christopher Byrne [1995] 1 ILRM 279. These were set out by Hardiman J. in DPP v. de Paor & Zdanowski [2008] IECCA 137 at p. 10 as follows:- ‘In DPP. v. Byrne [1995] 1 ILRM 279, said to be the first application brought under s.2 (1) of the Criminal Justice Ac......
  • DPP v Bannerton
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 21 July 2022
    ...less than the sentence that would normally have been expected in similar circumstances.” 24 The People (DPP) v de Paor and Zdanowski [2008] IECCA 137 and the Fitzgibbon case are relied upon to emphasise the burden that must be discharged by the Director in the instant case and the deference......
  • DPP v Byrne
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 23 March 2017
    ...by the Court of Criminal Appeal in the judgment of Hardiman J. in The People (Director of Public Prosecutions) v. de Paor & Zdanowski [2008] IECCA 137. 24 The respondent submits that the sentencing judge had the benefit of a number of probation reports, a certificate from Cuan Mhuire dated ......
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