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Man who set fire to fiancee's house told never to contact her again

He had been living with his partner at the time, and a date had been fixed for their wedding.

Image: Shutterstock/Tiago M Nunes

A MAN SENTENCED to three-and-a-half years imprisonment for setting fire to his former fiancee’s house is to get the balance of his sentence suspended this month following a successful appeal.

Darren Rafferty (40), with an address at Crossakiel, Kells Co Meath, had pleaded guilty at Trim Circuit Criminal Court to arson at the home of his former fiancee in Navan on January 14 2013.

He was sentenced to three-and-a-half years imprisonment by Judge Michael O’Shea on June 5 2014.

Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal yesterday, Mr Justice George Birmingham said Rafferty had been living with his partner and fiancee in Navan at the time and a date had been fixed for the wedding.

However, difficulties developed and on January 13 a number of arguments ensued, the judge said.

While the fiancee was away from the house with her elder daughter, Rafferty lit a sofa in the conservatory of their property which went on to cause extensive fire damage to the conservatory and kitchen as well as smoke damage to the house.

Just under €79,000 worth of damage was caused to the house and four units of Navan fire brigade had to attend the scene, the judge said.

Arrest

At 3.20am Rafferty was arrested and was so intoxicated he couldn’t be interviewed, Mr Justice Birmingham said. However he met the gardaí some days later by arrangement and confirmed that he started the fire, left the house and went back to the pub.

He told gardaí his actions were prompted by frustration at the break up of the relationship.

The sentencing judge commented that Rafferty had undoubtedly consumed a considerable amount of alcohol on the day in question, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

Of concern to the sentencing judge was that following an argument which couldn’t be resolved, Rafferty may well have been motivated by animosity or revenge when he lit the fire.

Mr Justice Birmingham said Rafferty had no previous convictions and an impressive work history.

Various reports assessed him as being at low risk of reoffending. He articulated “sincere remorse” for his actions, was described as accepting full responsibility and was not seeking to minimise or excuse his actions in any way, the judge said.

Sentencing

The task of sentencing somebody of good character charged with a serious offence for the first time was a particularly difficult one, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

Given the positive reports which indicated his insight and remorse, his lack of previous convictions and positive employment record, Mr Justice Birmingham said the failure to suspend a portion of his sentence constituted an error in principle.

Recognising the seriousness of the offence, Mr Justice Birmingham said the court would leave in place the three-and-a-half year sentence but would suspend the balance from July 31 next to allow Rafferty take the opportunity of a job offer in the UK.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, required that he not contact his former fiancee again.

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About the author:

Ruaidhrí Giblin

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