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Man jailed following appeal over 'unduly lenient' suspended sentence for attack on ex-partner

Matthew Kelly pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to his ex-partner on 17 November 2017.

Image: Shutterstock/Chodyra Mike

A MAN GIVEN a suspended sentence for attacking his ex-partner as she was collecting their two-year-old daughter from a creche has been sent to jail following an appeal by prosecutors. 

Matthew Kelly (26), with an address at Clara House, Main Street, in Roundwood pleaded guilty to assault causing harm to his ex-partner in Roundwood, Co Wicklow on 17 November 2017. 

He was given a wholly suspended two-and-a-half year sentence by Judge Michael O’Shea at Bray Circuit Criminal Court on 26 July 2018. 

The Director of Public Prosecutions successfully sought a review of Kelly’s suspended sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”. The Court of Appeal agreed today and accordingly jailed him for 12 months. 

Judgement 

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, President of the Court of Appeal Justice George Birmingham said the attack occurred near a creche which the little girl had just started attending. 

There appeared to be tension between Kelly and his ex-partner, the judge said, and a difficulty arose at the collection stage. 

Kelly, who had his daughter in his arms, put her down and punched his ex-partner in the mouth with a closed fist. He repeatedly punched her to the head and body after she had fallen to the ground. The victim impact report referred to being kicked on the ground. 

In the aftermath, Kelly went to his local garda station and made admissions.

Justice Birmingham said it was important to note that the injured party had obtained a safety order from the District Court, which was in force at the time of the assault. 

The sentencing judge described the attack as “cowardly, vicious and violent”. He said the question of whether Kelly would have to serve any time in custody was “extremely marginal”.

Kelly had no previous convictions and a good work record. The Circuit Court heard that he was suffering from depression and anxiety and had attended for counselling regularly. 

Decision

Counsel for the DPP, Eoghan Cole BL, submitted that the sentencing judge erred in suspending the sentence in its entirety. 

He said the judge attached too much weight to Kelly’s mitigating factors but “personal circumstances only travel so far”.

He said the judge didn’t attach any weight to the need for deterrence, particularly where a safety order had been breached.

He said the injured party was entitled to expect the safety she had obtained from the courts and the fact Kelly breached a safety order, moved the case into a different category.

Justice Birmingham said the court regarded it as a very serious offence given the nature and location of the assault. It was committed within the presence of the school community, and in the presence of his own child.

In the Court of Appeal’s view, the fact that such a serious assault was committed against someone who had invoked the protection of the courts by seeking and obtaining a safety order, moved the case into a different category. 

Justice Birmingham, who sat with Justice Marie Baker and Justice Patrick McCarthy, quashed Kelly’s sentence and imposed a new two-and-a-half year term with all but the final 12 months suspended. 

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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