Ireland

Jail for man who doused wife and children with petrol

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.

Guilty pleas

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 appealed against the undue leniency of that sentence to the Court of Appeal on Friday.

Thomas Rice BL 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.

Sentencing

John O’Sullivan BL, 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.

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

Justice Ni 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.

‘Unduly lenient’

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 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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