DPP v Hall

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr. Justice Mahon
Judgment Date21 January 2016
Neutral Citation[2016] IECA 11
Docket NumberAppeal No.: 210/13
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Date21 January 2016

[2016] IECA 11

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Mahon J.

Appeal No.: 210/13

Birmingham J.

Mahon J.

Edwards J.

The People at the Suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Respondent
- and -
Keith Hall
Appellant

Criminal Law ? Manslaughter ? Sentencing ? Appeal ? Mitigating Factors

Facts: The appellant was convicted of the manslaughter of a sixteen year old girl and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment. The appellant appealed against that sentence. The appellant had not been directly involved in the shooting of the girl but had assisted to a significant extent. The appellant had a dysfunctional background and drug problem. He also had numerous previous convictions and showed a propensity to engage in criminality on a regular basis. The appellant had pleaded guilty and shown remorse at an early stage. After the imposition of the sentence, Counsel for the appellant asked that the court to consider suspending a portion of the sentence but the judge refused.

Held by Mahon J: The court considered whether a twenty year sentence was appropriate for the appellant having regard to the extent of his involvement. If it was appropriate the court would then consider what portion of the term should be suspended having regard to the mitigating factors and likelihood of rehabilitation. The court was satisfied that the sentence imposed by the sentencing judge was correct before taking into consideration the mitigating factors. However, the court stated that it was impossible to discern from the sentencing judge?s remarks the actual reduction in sentence that was allowed for the mitigating factors.

The court determined that the learned sentencing judge did err in principle by failing to take sufficient account of mitigating factors. The court was concerned that sufficient allowance had been made for the appellant?s guilty plea, his drug problem and his dysfunctional background. Due to the errors of principle in the sentencing judge?s approach the court quashed the twenty year sentence imposed by the Central Criminal Court and sentenced the appellant afresh. The court re-imposed the sentence of twenty years imprisonment but suspended the final two years and sixth months.

Judgment of the Court delivered on the 21st day of January 2016 by Mr. Justice Mahon
1

The appellant was convicted of the manslaughter of a sixteen year old girl, Melanie McNamara, on 1st July 2013. He had earlier pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter, and this plea was accepted by the Respondent. The appellant was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of twenty years, the sentence to run from 21st February 2012. This is the appellant's appeal against that sentence.

Background facts
2

On the night of 8th February 2012, Ms. McNamara was sitting in a parked car with two friends at Brookview Way in Tallaght. A black jeep pulled up alongside the car and a shotgun was discharged from the driver's side of the car hitting Ms. McNamara in the head. She was immediately driven to Tallaght Hospital, but was pronounced dead soon thereafter. The black jeep was subsequently found abandoned at Citywest, and a number of items were discovered in the vehicle including a previously stolen double barrelled shotgun. The appellant's DNA was found on gloves which also contained some firearm residue, and this led to the appellant's arrest on 16th February 2012.

3

The appellant's involvement in the killing of Ms. McNamara arose in the following circumstances. Earlier on the evening of 8th February 2012, the appellant agreed with others to throw a rock at a particular house in Tallaght for the purpose of enticing certain people out of that house to facilitate them being shot. The appellant accepted that he knew that these people were to be shot on leaving the house. It was alleged that one or both of them had, approximately one week earlier, been involved in a serious assault on the appellant and this prompted the appellant's agreement to undertake the attack on the house.

4

The appellant was not directly involved in the shooting of Ms. McNamara but assisted to a significant extent in events both prior to, and subsequent to, the shooting. His involvement was substantial, and it is fortunate for him that he did not face a murder trial. By all accounts, the decision to accept the plea to manslaughter was a pragmatic one having regard to possible legal issues which might have arisen had the appellant been tried for murder.

The appellant's personal circumstances
5

The appellant's personal circumstances were outlined to the sentencing court, and also to this court. He has a dysfunctional background and has had addiction problems for a number of years. Indeed, on the evening in question, he had taken drugs. He was known to gardaí to have a serious problem with drug addiction.

6

The appellant has one hundred and eleven previous convictions, all of which relate to District Court offences. Most concern road traffic matters, while others involved burglary, theft and possession of drugs for the purpose of sale and supply. He has a conviction for possessing a knife, and three convictions relating to criminal damage. A sentence of eleven months was the longest sentence imposed on him prior to this incident.

7

While none of the previous convictions came close to manslaughter in terms of their seriousness, their number is nevertheless indicative of an individual who has shown a propensity to engage in criminality on a regular basis.

8

The appellant pleaded guilty to manslaughter and showed remorse at an early stage. His remorse was accepted by the investigating gardaí as being genuine. The sentencing court was informed that the manner in which the appellant dealt with the investigation of this incident while in custody was of considerable assistance to the prosecution.

9

The appellant's admissions, albeit it at the tail end of a series of twenty one interviews, and his plea of guilty are also important features of the case in that such acts of co-operation were mitigating factors.

The grounds of appeal
10

The appellant's grounds of appeal are as follows:

(i) The learned sentencing judge erred in law in failing to properly conduct the sentencing process having regard to the settled law with regard to the approach and procedure to be adopted.

(ii) The learned sentencing judge erred in law in failing and refusing to have any regard whatsoever to the issues of addiction and substance abuse on the part of the appellant, and in explicitly disregarding this as a factor capable of being accepted in mitigation.

(iii) The learned sentencing judge erred in law in failing to have any or any adequate regard to the dysfunctional background of the appellant and in disregarding this as a matter which might be a potentially significant factor in the sentencing process.

(iv) The learned sentencing judge erred in law in failing to have any regard whatsoever to the personal circumstances of the appellant.

(v) The learned sentencing judge erred in law in failing to have any regard whatsoever to the rehabilitative efforts made by the appellant.

(vi) The learned sentencing judge erred in law in failing to have any regard whatsoever to the admissions made by the appellant while detained in custody and the co-operation displayed by him towards the investigation authorities, and to thereby afford the appellant a reduction in terms of sentence.

(vii) The learned sentencing judge erred in law in failing to have adequate regard to the remorse displayed by the appellant, and accepted as genuine, and to afford the appellant a reduction in terms of sentence having regard to same.

(viii) The learned sentencing judge erred in law in failing to have adequate regard in all the circumstances of the case to the plea of guilty entered by the appellant.

(ix) The learned sentencing judge erred in law in failing to have any regard whatsoever to the youth of the appellant.

The sentencing judgment
11

In submissions made to the learned sentencing judge immediately prior to sentence by Counsel for the appellant, considerable emphasis was placed on the appellant's dysfunctional background and his difficult history with drug addiction, and the fact that drugs influenced his involvement in this particular crime. His plea of guilty to manslaughter and his remorse and shame for his involvement in this matter were also emphasised.

12

The brief sentencing judgment did not clearly identity the extent (if any) to which the plea of guilty or the appellant's dysfunctional background resulted in any reduction of what otherwise would have been an appropriate sentence for this crime. The learned sentencing judge sentenced the appellant as follows:-

?One learns a new feature...

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7 cases
  • Director of Public Prosecutions v Hearne
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 13 May 2019
    ...to the appellant with in-depth knowledge of the appellant's psychiatric difficulties. The appellant refers to The People (DPP) v. Hall [2016] IECA 11 where the importance of the sentencing judge to afford due regard to all mitigating factors, including those that could assist rehabilitatio......
  • DPP v Mahon
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 11 April 2019
    ...in relation to the appellant's efforts to deal with his addiction problems, when formulating the sentence. 57 In The People (DPP) v Hall [2016] IECA 11, the accused pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of a 16 year old girl who had been shot while sitting with friends in a parked car. The acc......
  • DPP v Da Silva
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 30 July 2019
    ...and Walsh [2001] 4 IR 160; The People (DPP) v Crowe [2010] 1 IR 129; The People (DPP) v Ward [2015] IECA 18 and The People (DPP) v Hall [2016] IECA 11 and The People (DPP) v Griffin [2018] IECA 35 The judgment in the Mahon case goes on to state, at paragraph 59 et seq, that cases of high cu......
  • DPP v Black
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 26 July 2019
    ... ... 22 Counsel also referred to The People (DPP) v. Hall [2016] I.E.C.A. 11 where it was indicated that the sentencing judge ought to have given greater consideration to the prospect of rehabilitation in the interests, not only of the appellant himself, but of society generally. At the time of sentencing the appellant presented as an individual who had ... ...
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