DPP v Goodchild

JudgeMs. Justice Kennedy
Judgment Date10 October 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] IECA 232
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Docket NumberRecord Number: 148/2021
The People at the Suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Lee Goodchild

[2022] IECA 232

Edwards J.

Kennedy J.

Ní Raifeartaigh J.

Record Number: 148/2021


Sentencing – Arson – Severity of sentence – Appellant seeking to appeal against sentence – Whether sentence was unduly severe

Facts: The appellant, Mr Goodchild, on the 16th April 2021, pleaded guilty to an offence of arson contrary to s. 2(1) and (4) of the Criminal Damage Act 1991. On the 15th July 2021, at Mullingar Circuit Court, the appellant was sentenced to a period of seven and a half years’ imprisonment with the final eighteen months suspended for a period of ten years. The appellant appealed to the Court of Appeal against severity of sentence. The appellant appealed his sentence on the basis that the trial judge failed to attach appropriate weight to the mitigating factors in the case and applied excess weight to certain aggravating factors. In particular, the appellant contended that the headline sentence of 10 years was excessive in all the circumstances and excessive weight was placed on the fact that the appellant did not pay compensation for the damage.

Held by the Court that identifying a headline sentence of 10 years imprisonment meant that the notional pre mitigation sentence was placed either at the upper end of the mid-range or at the lower end of the upper range. The Court was not persuaded that the judge fell into error, when considering the extent of the aggravating factors and, in particular, that this attack related to a dwelling house together with the other factors identified. The Court held that the judge clearly said the failure to pay compensation was an aggravating factor, however, if compensation had been forthcoming (and the Court did not see this as a possibility in the appellant’s circumstances), the payment of such would have reduced the harm done to the injured party, but only in the sense that her financial loss would have been less. It may well be that the judge was thinking along those lines, but even if he were not, the Court was of the view that if this comment amounted to an error, it was an error of insufficient moment to justify intervention. The Court was not persuaded that the judge erred in nominating the headline sentence of 10 years; it may have been somewhat on the high side, but it was within the judge’s margin of appreciation. Insofar as complaint was made that the judge took insufficient account of the mitigating factors, the Court found that the judge identified the relevant mitigating factors and reduced the headline sentence in consequence to one of 7 ½ years thereof, thus amounting to a 25% reduction from the nominated sentence. The Court held that, in the circumstances, this was an appropriate reduction.

The Court dismissed the appeal.

Appeal dismissed.

JUDGMENT of the Court delivered ( ex tempore) on the 10th day of October 2022 by Ms. Justice Kennedy.


This is an appeal against severity of sentence. On the 16th April 2021, the appellant pleaded guilty to an offence of arson contrary to s. 2(1) and (4) of the Criminal Damage Act 1991. On the 15th July 2021, at Mullingar Circuit Court, the appellant was sentenced to a period of seven and a half years' imprisonment with the final eighteen months suspended for a period of ten years.


At approximately 2:15am on the 26th August 2019, the resident of a house in Mullingar, County Westmeath rang Mullingar Garda Station to alert the Gardaí that the front door of her house had been set on fire. It transpired that petrol had been used as an accelerant and a rag set on fire and pushed through the letter box of the door. The injured party, the resident of the house, was able to escape the house through the sitting room window but is said to have re-entered the house a number of times while waiting for the arrival of the fire brigade in an effort to extinguish the fire with kettles of water.


CCTV footage from a neighbouring house established that the appellant had travelled in a black Toyota Yaris to the injured party's house, alighted from the passenger side of the vehicle and travelled on foot to the property. The appellant is shown approaching the house and then returning to the car after a flash occurs. Further CCTV footage from a petrol station established that at approximately 2:07am the appellant filled a container with petrol. A receipt from the petrol station was also obtained by Gardaí.


The house was owned by Westmeath County Council and the estimated cost of the damage to the house was €1,500 to include the replacement of a letter box, cost of labour and repainting the door. Adding this to the cost of the call to the fire brigade the injured party's losses are estimated at €3,000.


A victim impact statement was read out in the sentencing court. It details that the injured party is undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy and that she suffers from a panic disorder, agoraphobia and PTSD since the commission of the offence.

Personal circumstances of the appellant

At the time of sentencing the appellant was 29 years of age. He is a man who has suffered from an alcohol and drug addiction which he is addressing within the prison setting.


The appellant has 53 previous convictions, most of which have been dealt with in the District Court. Relevant previous convictions include two convictions for criminal damage.


The appellant enjoys enhanced prisoner status in Castlerea Prison.

The sentence imposed

The sentencing judge identified a pre-mitigation headline sentence of ten years' imprisonment. This was reduced to a sentence of seven and a half years' in light of the mitigating factors. The final eighteen months of the sentence was suspended on conditions in order to encourage the appellant's rehabilitation.


The judge identified the aggravating factors as being; the degree of planning and premeditation involved in the commission of the offence, the knowledge that people were present in the house at the time of the offending and the timing of the offence at a time when people would normally be expected to be asleep, the impact of the offence on the injured party, the failure to recompense and The Probation Report placing the appellant at a high risk of reoffending.


In terms of mitigation, the judge took into account the appellant's early guilty plea, his voluntary attendance at the Garda Station, his cooperation and assistance of Gardaí and his efforts towards rehabilitation. A handwritten letter of apology was also taken into account.


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