DPP v Ward

 
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[2015] IECA 18

THE COURT OF APPEAL

Ryan P., Sheehan J, Mahon J.

Appeal Number : 6/2013

The People at the Suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions
and
Douglas Ward
Appellant

Criminal law - Manslaughter - Appeal against severity of sentence - Particularly vicious assault - Aggravating and mitigating factors with regards sentencing - Whether sentence excessive

Facts The appellant was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years imprisonment with 3 years suspended. He sought to appeal against severity of sentence. Mr Ward was originally charged with murder, yet later entered a plea of guilty for manslaughter. The victim was a Mr Niall Dorr. The assault took place in Dundalk on 13 October 2010. A fight broke out between two groups of people. The appellant had been drinking heavily that day and became involved in the altercation. Mr Dorr was punched to the ground, and there violently kicked and punched in the head and body, as well as being dragged along the ground. Both the accounts of witnesses and the post mortem results, vividly illustrate the very violent and persistent nature of the attack. The appellant was arrested four days later following a Garda investigation including the use of CCTV images. He denied the assault or that he was even at the scene. He was released but following DNA results was ultimately rearrested. He again denied any involvement. He was duly charged with murder, subsequently pleading guilty to manslaughter. The appellant had 12 previous convictions of a less serious nature including road traffic and public order offences. He was on bail at the time of the assault. He is 38 years old and has 4 children. He is poorly educated and is unemployed. He has a serious, long-term alcohol and drug dependency. He expressed remorse for his actions; actions which were not premeditated. The appellant submitted that the trial judge erred in principle in failing to take into account the appellant”s efforts to address his addiction problems, or the absence of premeditation, and that he had insufficient regard for the appellant”s lack of serious previous convictions, or his remorse, or for his apology to the deceased”s family.

Held The judge said it was the sheer viciousness of the attack which rightly placed the case high on the gravity scale and concluded it was an offence that should attract a lengthy prison sentence. However, the judge concluded the sentence of sixteen years (with the final three years suspended) was excessive. He said the learned trial judge did not sufficiently take account of the lack of premeditation, the absence of serious previous convictions and the very positive signs for rehabilitation in relation to the appellant”s efforts to deal with his addiction problems, when formulating the sentence. The judge would therefore set aside the sentence of sixteen years (with the final three years suspended) and substitute in its place a sentence of thirteen years (with the final three years suspended).

-The judge concluded this was the appropriate sentence

Mr. Justice Mahon
1

This is an appeal against the severity of a sentence of sixteen years (with the final three years suspended) for manslaughter, imposed by the Central Criminal Court on 21st December 2012.

2

The appellant was originally charged with murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter on 30th October 2012. This plea was accepted by the respondent.

3

The victim of the crime was Mr. Niall Dorr. He died from his injuries on the day following the date of the assault on him by the appellant.

4

The assault on Mr. Dorr took place at Castle Road, Dundalk on 13th October 2010, in the course of a fight between two groups of people, one group comprising two men and two women, (one of whom was the applicant), and the other group comprising three men, (one of whom was the deceased). The two groups of people, but excluding the appellant, had been involved in a fracas on the previous day. The appellant was drinking heavily on the day of the assault.

5

In the course of the incident, the appellant and Mr. Dorr became separated from their associates, whereupon and by all accounts, the appellant proceeded to viciously assault Mr. Dorr, in the course of which...

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