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Man who doused petrol on his wife and children jailed for one year

The man doused the woman and her children after he set alight petrol he spread in their home.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock

A MAN, WHO doused petrol on his wife and her two children, after setting light to petrol he had spread in their home, has been jailed for a year by the Court of Appeal.

He had previously been given a suspended sentence for threatening to damage the property four years ago.

The man, who cannot be named to protect the identities of the children, had broken a barring order taken against him by his wife six weeks before the St Patrick’s Day attack.

He had pleaded guilty to making a threat to damage property, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. He had also admitted breaching a barring order.

He had further pleaded guilty to criminal damage of the property by breaking a light at the house the following day. This also carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

However, a Circuit Court judge gave him a wholly suspended 12-month sentence for the attack. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) appealed against the undue leniency of that sentence to the Court of Appeal today.

Barrister Thomas Rice explained that the accused had moved out of the house but into an adjoining flat after receiving the barring order. A door between the family home and this flat was barred.

However, the man spread petrol on this door and set it on fire on the day in question. He also splashed petrol on his children and wife, who managed to put out the fire.

Barrister John O’Sullivan, for the DPP, had submitted in written documents that the sentencing judge was not justified in imposing such lenient sentences, having regard to the aggravating factors. He said that this was not an exceptional case warranting a wholly suspended sentence.

“The decision to impose a wholly suspended sentence was unjustified in this case as it was not founded on a sound evidential basis,” he argued. “A further significant aggravating feature was that the respondent repeatedly breached a barring order.

“The sentences imposed deviated from the norm to such a degree that when looked at globally these sentences are unduly lenient.”

Barrister Jack Nicholas responded on behalf of the man, saying that a judge must be afforded a “significant margin of appreciation” in the selection of a sentence.

“It is respectfully submitted the learned sentencing judge kept a balance between the particular circumstances of the offending and the relevant personal circumstances of the respondent,” he said. “It is submitted that the sentences as imposed were adequate and justifiable and fall within the permissible range.”

Court President Judge George Birmingham, who sat with Judge Isobel Kennedy and Judge Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, took a number of hours to consider the case before returning with a decision.

Judge Ní Raifeartaigh said that there was a risk of harm to the man’s wife, children and their home. She noted that his wife had been terrified and that the man had been taken into custody.

However, he returned to his house on his release the very next day and again became aggressive.

“Both episodes took place when there was a barring order in place,” she noted, describing this as an aggravating factor.

He had several convictions for breaching the barring order by the time he was sentenced for this attack.

“It appears to have been accepted that alcohol was the root cause,” she said, adding that this was not a mitigating factor.

She said the fact that this crime had been perpetrated by a family member may have a greater impact on the victims because the behaviour comes from a trusted person.

She said that this was not an exceptional case that merited a suspended sentence.

“It was unduly lenient,” she said.

The court imposed a two-year sentence on the threat to damage property charge.

It suspended one year on the condition he stay away from the injured party and their dependents, stay away from the family home and be of sober habits in public.

He must present himself at his local Garda station to begin his sentence on Friday next.

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Natasha Reid

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