Dublin man appeals sentence for Tallaght manslaughter

The fatal incident happened in Cushlawn Dale in Tallaght
The fatal incident happened in Cushlawn Dale in Tallaght

A homeless man jailed for the fatal stabbing of a 23-year-old has moved to appeal his 14-year prison sentence for manslaughter.

Thomas Kinsella (37), of Orchid House on James Street in the capital had pleaded not guilty to the murder of John Murdoch at Cushlawn Way – Cushlawn Dale in Tallaght on August 27, 2011.

However, a Central Criminal Court jury unanimously found Kinsella guilty of manslaughter by reason of self-defence in December 2012.

He was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment with the final five suspended by Mr Justice Barry White on January 31, 2013.

Kinsella's barrister, Brendan Grehan SC, told the Court of Appeal today that his client wished to withdraw an appeal against conviction and proceed only with a sentence appeal.

Mr Grehan said the headline sentence of 14 years placed the offence in the worst category of manslaughter. It was simply unjustified when compared with other cases, he submitted.

Mr Grehan said the five year suspended period seemed extraordinarily long.

A much shorter period of suspension could have achieved the goal of encouraging someone to turn their life around particularly a drug addict for whom one slip-up could cause them to serve a full 14 year sentence which was never merited in the first place.

Mr Grehan said the DPP appeared to be contending for a policy position whereby the carrying of a knife elevates offending “much higher”.

But Kinsella was the carrying the knife in the context of his homelessness, where there was a threat against him and where he had been stabbed in the neck six weeks earlier.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Dominic McGinn SC, said a substantial aggravating factor was the habitual carrying of a knife. That left Kinsella more emboldened to act as he did, Mr McGinn said, and it escalated the offence to a higher level.

Had Kinsella not been armed he would have been more tempted to retreat, Mr McGinn said.

He added that Kinsella was deemed as needing the five year suspended period to incentive rehabilitation.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Jutice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said the court would reserve its judgment.

The Central Criminal Court heard that the incident began with Mr Murdoch and his two male friends began calling Mr Kinsella's group 'junkies' and 'scumbags' as they walked past them.

Kinsella said he was defending himself when he stabbed the deceased and that a group that including Mr Murdoch threw bricks and bottles at him and his two friends, a man and woman. Kinsella concealed the knife but later told gardai where he had left it.

Mr Kieran Kelly BL defending said Kinsella wanted to offer his sincere apologies to the family saying he had replayed that night over and over and that it was the biggest mistake of his life.