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Dublin: 2 °C Saturday 29 February, 2020

Call for tougher sentences over burglaries that 'destroy entire communities or ways of life'

Two cousins jailed over a ‘fatal burglary’ will have served their sentences by the time new jail terms are handed down.

File photo
File photo
Image: Sasko Lazarov/

TWO COUSINS JAILED for a “fatal burglary” at the home of a 62-year-old man will have served their prison sentences, which were found to be too lenient by the Court of Appeal, by the time fresh sentences are handed down.

Michael Casey, 34, with an address at Clonlong halting site, Southill, Limerick, and David Casey, 23, with an address at Carragh Park, Belcamp, Dublin 17, had pleaded guilty to a series of burglaries, including one at the home of John O’Donoghue at Toomaline in Doon on 27 August 2015.

O’Donoghue collapsed and died as he was about to confront the two intruders, who ran away without offering assistance.

Judge Tom O’Donnell sentenced both men at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court to four-and-a-half years imprisonment, with the final year suspended, on 15 December 2016.

The Court of Appeal found the men’s sentences to be “unduly lenient” following a review of sentence brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The three-judge court was told yesterday that the Caseys are due for release from prison in the middle of April, days before the court’s judgment on the matter is due to be handed down on 17 April. Accordingly, the court remanded both men in custody to that date.

In seeking a review of the Caseys’ sentences last December, counsel for the DPP, Thomas O’Malley BL, submitted that the Caseys targeted four residential properties and entered three. They were engaged in a “spree” which they had obviously planned, and David Casey was on bail at the time the offences were committed.

While it was not alleged that the Caseys directly caused the death of O’Donoghue, O’Malley said there was “undoubtedly some causative link” between the Caseys’ behaviour and O’Donoghue’s sudden death.

He said the impact on the victims, particularly O’Donoghue’s surviving sister who witnessed her brother die shortly after arriving home while the burglary was in progress, had to be considered. Property of significant economic and sentimental value was taken from the home of one of the other victims.

The DPP made further “general submissions” to the court “in case the court may wish to offer some general guidance or guidelines on the sentencing” of burglaries “for the future”.

O’Malley said the submission was being made “out of recognition of the undeniable social problem caused by residential burglaries”.

‘Serious social problem’ 

O’Malley said residential burglaries are a “serious social problem” particularly where the dwelling happens to be occupied by an elderly, infirm or disabled person, and where it happens during the night or in the early hours when the person or persons are at home.

It was clear from media reports, O’Malley said, that residential burglaries were occurring with a degree of frequency. That in itself made it “socially problematic”.

He said the impact on victims was “multifaceted”. It had a serious impact on the person whose home was invaded but also affected those who were in similar circumstances, particularly when there was a burglary in a rural area.

A single burglary in a rural area creates a “ripple of fear” throughout that area such that other people in the area “live in permanent fear or dread”.

This meant that residential burglaries could destroy entire communities or ways of life, O’Malley said. It could lead people to alter their lifestyles, such as moving into sheltered accommodation. He said people felt at risk in their homes, the place they should feel most secure.

O’Malley submitted that residential burglaries should be treated as a “special case”. It was already recognised, he said, that a residential burglary was at least as much an offence against the person as it was the property, and sometimes more so.

While little or no property of any value may be taken, typically, the victim will continue to endure a sense of fear and insecurity for quite a long time to come.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would deliver its judgment on 17 April.

On an earlier occasion, prosecuting counsel, John G O’Sullivan BL, referred to the case as a “fatal burglary”.

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings. 

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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