DPP v Karl Donohoe

CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeMr. Justice Sheehan
Judgment Date19 January 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] IECA 6
Docket Number143/12
The People at the Suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Karl Donohoe

[2015] IECA 6

Ryan P., Sheehan J., Mahon J.



Appeal – Severity of Sentence – Manslaughter – Sentencing Guidelines – Mitigating Factors

Facts: This case concerned an appeal against the severity of a sentence imposed in response to a guilty plea of manslaughter. The appellant submitted that the learned trial judge had erred in principle and in law in his determination of the sentence and that the sentence failed to take into account significant mitigating factors and was disproportionate in all the circumstances of the case. The appellant further submitted that the learned trial judge had wrongly taken into account extraneous matters.

Held by the Court, having regard to the seriousness of the offence and the applicable sentencing guidelines for manslaughter, that although the circumstances of the case put it in a serious class, the trial judge erred in locating the crime at somewhat too high a point that represented a category of gravity above that which was warranted by the facts. Guided by the principle of proportionality and the need to reconcile that principle with the penal aim of rehabilitation, it was determined that the correct starting point in the case was one of ten years imprisonment rather than twelve. Accordingly, the Court imposed a sentence of ten years imprisonment and suspended the final two years of that sentence provided that the appellant enter into a bond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for that period of time. A bond in the sum of €1,000 was to be entered into.

Mr. Justice Sheehan
Judgment of the Court delivered on the 19th day of January 2015, by Mr. Justice Sheehan

This is an appeal against severity of sentence. On the 23rd February, 2012, the appellant pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Ray Bates on the 26th September, 2010, and was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with the final two years suspended. Sentence was imposed by the Central Criminal Court on the 23rd April, 2012.


The manslaughter arose in circumstances where the appellant and the deceased were both driving their respective vehicles in Sandymount, Dublin at about 7.25 pm on the 23rd April, 2012 going in the same direction. The appellant had his two year old child in the back of his vehicle and he was accompanied by a friend in the passenger seat.


The initial contact between the parties occurred when the appellant stopped at traffic lights and the deceased man flashed his lights at the appellant.


The appellant drove into Tritonville Road where the garda evidence was that the deceased man was tailgating the appellant who was slowing down to indicate by his brake lights that the deceased was too close. The appellant stopped about 400mtrs into Tritonville Road and both men got out of their respective vehicles and proceeded to shout at each other. Both men were described by witnesses as being agitated and the deceased man was overheard to say “don’t be breaking like a fucking fanny, just drive your fucking car”. The deceased man had spent five and half hours prior to the incident drinking beer in a public house in Sandymount.


Following this altercation, both men returned to their cars and the appellant went to drive away the deceased man drove around by the side of the appellant’s vehicle mounting a traffic island and forcing the appellant to move slightly to the left of the road.


The appellant got out of his vehicle, took a hurley from the boot of his car and started hitting the front passenger door of the deceased’s vehicle which was now stopped. In the meantime his passenger had driven his own vehicle further up the road and parked. The deceased man got out and approached the appellant with his hands in the air in front of him in a non confrontational manner.


The appellant hit him a number of blows with the hurley as the deceased man tried to ward off the blows but the appellant continued to strike him on the arms and also on the head. The deceased man fell to the ground and was struck a number of times on the head while on the ground. One witness stated that she did not think anyone could be more aggressive and that appellant hit the deceased using the base of the hurley on the left temple.


The man on the ground never attempted to strike back. When the attack ended, the deceased man got up, got into his vehicle and drove home. The following day a friend became concerned that he had not been to work and called to see him and arranged for an ambulance to take him to hospital where he subsequently died on the 30th...

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