DPP v Thornton

JurisdictionIreland
CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
JudgeMr. Justice Sheehan
Judgment Date21 July 2015
Neutral Citation[2015] IECA 202
Date21 July 2015

[2015] IECA 202

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Sheehan J.

Mahon J.

Edwards J.

72/13
DPP v Thornton
The People at the Suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Respondent
V
Maura Thornton
Appellant

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

Facts: The appellant, Ms Thornton, and the deceased, Mr Joyce, were in a relationship which involved the excessive consumption of alcohol by both of them and the appellant decided to withdraw as a result of this. The deceased made numerous efforts to contact her and the deceased”s advances led to the appellant ending her period of sobriety and commencing to drink excessively on the 31st July, 2011. At about 10.30 pm that evening the deceased entered the roof top area of the appellant”s apartment located above the old Jameson Hotel in Salthill by climbing up the emergency stairwell. Some kind of standoff took place resulting in the deceased man being told to get away. When he did not do so, the appellant left her apartment taking a knife with her. She went down the corridor exiting by an emergency door that led to the roof where she confronted the deceased and stabbed him eighteen times. She returned to the apartment and called the Gardai saying that she had stabbed someone. The Gardai arrived and arrested her. The appellant was acquitted of murder but found guilty of manslaughter. She was sentenced in March, 2013, to ten years imprisonment with the final three years of that sentence suspended on terms. She appealed to the Court of Appeal against severity of sentence, relying on DPP v Anne Berry [2011] IECCC 4. The appellant contended that the sentencing judge erred in principle in: 1) failing to treat the appellant as having pleaded guilty; 2) failing to give sufficient weight to the offer to plead guilty to manslaughter; 3) imposing upon the appellant a sentence that was excessive and/or unduly severe and/or disproportionate; 4) incorrectly accepting evidence of, and placed undue reliance upon, unproven matters which were highly prejudicial to the appellant; and 5) suspending the appellant”s sentence for a further period of six months instead of backdating her sentence to credit her for all time spent on remand.

Held by Sheehan J that the Court would reject the submission of the appellant that the sentencing judge wrongly accepted evidence of unproven matters highly prejudicial to the appellant. The Court was satisfied that the sentencing remarks of the judge disclosed that he took the appellant”s remorse and offer to plead guilty into account when considering what the appropriate sentence was; he also took into account the aggravating factors, particularly prior knife offences. The Court was satisfied that the sentencing judge carefully identified a sentence of ten years imprisonment as the appropriate starting point in this case given the aggravating factors. The Court also held that the sentencing judge proceeded correctly to reduce that sentence in view of the mitigating factors and suspending the final two and a half years of the sentence on terms designed to incentivise the appellant”s rehabilitation; the sentencing judge then went on to suspend a further six months in view of the time spent in custody prior to sentence leaving a final sentence of ten years imprisonment with the final three years suspended on terms. The Court rejected the ground of appeal relating to the time spent by the appellant in custody prior to sentence, but in doing so indicated that this did not preclude the authorities from giving credit to the appellant for a period of up to a further six weeks if it emerged that six months did not represent the full amount of time spent by her in custody prior to sentence.

Sheehan J held that no error in the judge”s approach to sentence or in the sentence imposed was found and accordingly dismissed the appeal.

Appeal dismissed.

1

1. This is an appeal against severity of sentence.

2

2. Following a jury trial which concluded on the 28 th January, 2013, the appellant was acquitted of the murder of Kevin Joyce, but found guilty of his manslaughter. Following a sentence hearing which took place on the 11 th March, 2013, the appellant was sentenced two days later on the 13 th March to ten years imprisonment with the final three years of that sentence suspended on terms.

3

3. The appellant contends that the learned sentencing judge erred in principle on the following grounds:

1

He failed to treat the appellant as having pleaded guilty.

2

He failed to give sufficient weight to the offer to plead guilty to manslaughter.

3

He imposed upon the appellant a sentence that was excessive and/or unduly severe and/or disproportionate.

4

He incorrectly accepted evidence of, and placed undue reliance upon, unproven matters which are highly prejudicial to the appellant.

5

He erred in suspending the appellant's sentence for a further period of six months instead of backdating her sentence to credit her for all time spent on remand.

4

4. In order to consider these grounds of appeal it is necessary first of all to set out the background to the offence.

5

5. The appellant and the deceased had a shared interest in Celtic studies and met at University...

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2 cases
  • DPP v Mahon
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 11 April 2019
    ...convictions, had shown remorse and had offered to plead guilty to manslaughter prior to the trial. In The People (DPP) v Thornton [2015] IECA 202, the accused was acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to ten years” imprisonment with the final three years suspended.......
  • DPP v Da Silva
    • Ireland
    • Court of Appeal (Ireland)
    • 30 July 2019
    ...this category were The People (DPP) v Horgan [2007] 3 IR 568; The People (DPP) v Kelly [2005] 2 IR 321; The People (DPP) v Thornton [2015] IECA 202; The People (DPP) v Princs [2007] IECCA 142, and The People (DPP) v DD [2011] IECCC 3. Many of these cases involve stabbings and fell into this......

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