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Dublin man jailed for role in “mindless and savage” attack has sentence reduced

Edward Byrne
Edward Byrne

A Dublin man jailed for his part in a “mindless and savage” attack on a 27-year-old ‘model worker’ killed on his way to work has had his 12-year sentence reduced by two years on appeal.

In March 2012 the Central Criminal Court heard that Edward Byrne, (23) and his cousin Martin Morgan (23) of Tonlegee Road, Raheny; and Stephen Byrne (20) of St Donagh’s Road, Donaghmede, Dublin attacked Lukasz Rzeszutko “for a buzz”.

The three men kicked and beat the Polish man to death on October 2, 2010 as he arrived at Kish Fish in the Newtown Industrial Estate in Coolock, where he worked with his two brothers.

Lukasz Rzeszutko

The trial court had heard that Mr Rzeszutko’s boss and colleague did not recognise him when they found him unconscious outside Kish Fish that morning. He had brain tissue protruding from his nose and he died in hospital two days later of severe brain damage.

All three had pleaded not guilty to murder but guilty to manslaughter.

Stephen Byrne

A jury convicted Morgan of murder after hearing that he had jumped and stamped on the victim’s head and he was sentenced to life imprisonment by Mr Justice Barry White on March 30 2012.

The DPP accepted the pleas of the other two men. Edward Byrne was jailed for 12 years while Stephen Byrne was jailed for nine with the final three suspended.

Edward Byrne successfully appealed against the severity of his 12-year sentence today in the Court of Appeal, having lost, together with Morgan, an appeal against conviction earlier in the day.

Mr Justice John Edwards said Byrne had alleged that the sentencing judge erred in rejecting the evidence of two witnesses referred to at the sentencing hearing.

Martin Morgan

The Court of Appeal agreed the judge had erred in rejecting their evidence because of an adverse view he had formed of their credibility on the basis of their testimony and cross-examination at the trial of Martin Morgan.

Mr Justice Edwards said the court was also not satisfied that appropriate mitigation was afforded to Byrne in sentencing.

The judge said the court had considered all the circumstances of the case, including the aggravating factors and the “truly savage and horrendous circumstances” in which the victim died.

He said the court balanced this against the significant mitigating circumstances to be taken in to account on Byrne’s behalf, including his plea of guilty, evidence that his role was at “somewhat of a lesser level” than Morgan and Stephen Byrne and his continuing efforts at rehabilitation and work in prison.

Mr Justice Edwards said the court would impose a sentence of 10 years in substitution of the 12-year sentence imposed.

Earlier, Edward Byrne and Morgan lost appeals against conviction on grounds that evidence obtained during a search was inadmissible because the warrant issued to authorise the search was defective and invalid.

It was claimed that the warrant did not specify an arrestable offence.

Mr Justice John Edwards said the court accepted the DPP's submissions that the warrant's failure to state explicitly an arrestable offence was not a jurisdictional issue.

The situation was sub-optimal, the judge said, but the court was satisfied that arrestable offence could have been inferred from the information on the warrant.

It was further submitted that the trial was fundamentally unfair because it began as a case based on joint enterprise.

The prosecution had opened the case on the basis of joint enterprise and, following the Byrnes' pleas to manslaughter, had failed to give any indication to the jury that joint enterprise was no longer relevant.

Mr Justice Edwards said the trial judge's charge to the jury on the non-prosecution of joint enterprise was entirely clear. There was no teneble basis for concluding that the jury had been confused, he said.

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said the court “not having seen fit to uphold any” grounds, accordingly dismissed the men's appeal against conviction.