DPP v Thornton

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeMr. Justice Hedigan
Judgment Date08 October 2018
Neutral Citation[2018] IECA 314
Docket Number[272/2017]
Date08 October 2018

[2018] IECA 314

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Hedigan J.

Birmingham P.

Edwards J.

Hedigan J.

[272/2017]

BETWEEN
THE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS
APPLICANT
AND
JOHN PAUL THORNTON
RESPONDENT

Crime & sentencing – Theft and fraud offences – Sentence – Appeal by DPP against leniency of sentence

Facts: The respondent had pled guilty to robbery, theft and burglary offences at Cork Criminal Court. The applicant Director considered the sentence handed down to be unduly lenient and now appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Held by the Court that the appeal would be dismissed. Whilst the sentence was indeed lenient, it was within the discretion available to the sentencing judge notwithstanding the lack of detail as to the reasoning behind the decision.

JUDGMENT of the Court ( ex tempore) delivered on the 8th day of October 2018 by Mr. Justice Hedigan
The Appeal
1

This is an appeal brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions on the basis that the sentence imposed on the respondent on the 23rd of November 2017 in the Cork Circuit Criminal Court was unduly lenient. The respondent pleaded guilty on the 23rd of October 2017 to all three counts on the indictment; to robbery contrary to s.14, burglary contrary to s.12, and theft contrary to s.4 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001. The Court imposed a sentence of twelve months imprisonment with the last four months suspended for a period of twelve months.

Background
2

On the 17th of June 2017, the respondent carried out a robbery at Ladbrook's bookmakers, Edward Walsh Road, Ballyphehane, Co. Cork. At 19.48, the respondent entered the bookmakers and picked up a number of football coupons which were beside the door. He walked towards the cashier, Jonathan Callan, and went to the price screen close to him. He picked up a betting docket, wrote on it, and then presented the docket and football coupons to Mr Callan. The docket read: 'give out the money or I'll fuck petrol in on top of you.' The respondent then told Mr Callan that he was going to rob the bookmakers, that he needed the money, and that he would set the premises on fire. He put his hand behind his back as if to get something, and Mr Callan handed over the contents of the till, which amounted to €878. Mr Callan recognised the respondent as someone who had been in the bookmakers on previous occasions and knew him by his nickname 'Bubbles'. The respondent was identified on CCTV and was subsequently arrested a few days later on the 20th of June. The money stolen was not recovered.

3

The other offences took place on a different date, the 27th of May 2017, in other areas of Cork. A burglary took place on a residential premises, 4 Elderwood Avenue, Boreenmanna Road. The third count of theft took place at O'Driscoll's Superstore, Ballinlough. At 15.05, the respondent entered the supermarket, and proceeded to pick up a sherry trifle and began to eat it while in the store. He then ordered a chicken roll from the deli counter and the left without paying for the items, which were valued at €1.59 and €3.50 respectively. After leaving the store, the respondent went to 4 Elderwood Avenue and entered the house there. Whilst he was there, Mr Eoin McCormack returned home to find the respondent in the kitchen, holding a watch and two bottles of aftershave. The respondent asked Mr McCormack not to call the Gardaí and left the house, leaving the items behind. Mr McCormack took a photograph of the respondent leaving the premises. In this photograph the respondent can be seen wearing the same clothes that he had been wearing in O'Driscoll's Superstore.

4

The respondent was interviewed in relation to the offences on the 20th of June 2017. He made no admissions in relation to the offences at that time. His fingerprints were taken, which matched with the samples taken from the bottles of aftershave in Mr McCormack's home. The respondent pleaded guilty to the offences on the 23rd of October 2017. After hearing the evidence and the plea in mitigation, the Court requested a report from an addiction counsellor. The respondent was on a waiting list to see a counsellor at the time. The matter was adjourned until the 21st of November 2017, with the respondent in custody.

Sentence
5

On the 23rd of November 2017, the respondent was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment, with the last four months suspended for a period of twelve months, backdated to the 20th of June 2017. The sentence was imposed on all three counts to run concurrently.

6

In mitigation, it was pleaded that the respondent suffers from addiction issues, which had caused him to get involved in criminality. Letters were provided to the Court to explain that the respondent had been undertaking treatment from 2015-2016 but had relapsed at the time of the offences. It was pleaded that the respondent is a man of good character and capable of contributing to society when he is sober. The respondent made no attempt to disguise himself while committing the offences and was recognised by the cashier in the bookmakers. There was little planning or premeditation to the crimes.

Personal Circumstances
7

The respondent was thirty seven years of age when sentenced. He has three young children. He resided with his partner in Togher, Co. Cork, but was not living there at the time of the offending. He has long term addiction issues. The respondent had 140 previous convictions, including three previous convictions for burglary and fourteen convictions for possession of drugs. On the 23rd of May 2007, the respondent was sentenced to four years imprisonment for robbery, and on the same date he received a four year sentence for carrying a firearm with intent. On the 9th of May 2012, he was sentenced to three years in prison with twelve months suspended for burglary. On the same date, he received a three year sentence with twelve months suspended for robbery. On the 3rd of October 2016, he was convicted at Cork District Court and received 200 hours community service and five months imprisonment for entering a building with intent. In relation to this offence, he had been in custody since the 20th of June 2017, the date of his arrest for the present offences. The respondent had treatment for his addiction while in custody.

Grounds of Appeal
8

The appellant puts forward the following grounds of appeal in that the sentencing judge erred:

(a) in principle in imposing an unduly lenient sentence in all the circumstances, being a sentence of 12 months imprisonment suspending the last 4 months on each count concurrent when the maximum sentence for robbery is life imprisonment, for burglary is 14 years imprisonment and for theft is 10 years imprisonment.

(b) in failing to attach appropriate weight to the aggravating factors in the case.

Submissions of the Appellant
9

The maximum sentence in respect of robbery is life imprisonment, the maximum sentence in respect of burglary is fourteen years imprisonment, and the maximum sentence in respect of theft is ten years imprisonment. The gravity of the robbery and burglary offences were such that, individually, a sentence of twelve months imprisonment would be lenient, but taken together, and with the added offence of theft, a twelve month sentence for all three counts to run concurrently is an error in principle. Reference is made to the case of DPP v Stronge [2011] IECCA 79, where it was accepted that a sentence may be...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3 cases
  • DPP v F.E.
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 26 February 2020
    ...judge also imposed a 5 year post-release supervision order. The accused appealed his conviction unsuccessfully in the Court of Appeal; [2018] IECA 314. However, the accused succeeded in February 2018 in his appeal on sentence; [2018] IECA 7 In the Central Criminal Court, Kennedy J, in her......
  • DPP v F.E.
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 6 December 2019
    ...judge also imposed a 5 year post-release supervision order. The accused appealed his conviction unsuccessfully in the Court of Appeal; [2018] IECA 314. However, the accused succeeded in February 2018 in his appeal on sentence; [2018] IECA 7 In the Central Criminal Court, Kennedy J, in her......
  • DPP v F.E. (No 2)
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 26 February 2020
    ...of undue leniency under s 3 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993. It was the accused who first appealed the jury convictions, unsuccessfully [2018] IECA 314, and then, secondly, appealed his sentence for rape claiming it was so disproportionately high as to be an error in principle. As the prio......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT