Ex-student went on three-day bender before terrifying home invasion

CourtsBy Sunday World
He was sentenced to three years imprisonment with the final six months suspended in November
He was sentenced to three years imprisonment with the final six months suspended in November

An ex-student who binged on drink and drugs for up to three days before falsely imprisoning a woman claiming that the British army was after him, has had an appeal against sentence dismissed.

Liam McCann (26), of The Avenue, Meadowfields, Enniscorthy, had pleaded guilty to the false imprisonment of a woman, damage to her house and the unlawful taking of a car at her home near Scarawalsh, Co Wexford on August 11, 2014.

He was sentenced to three years imprisonment with the final six months suspended by Judge Barry Hickson last November.

McCann had an appeal against sentence dismissed today, with the Court of Appeal holding that his jail term sufficiently reflected the seriousness of the offence.

The three-judge court heard in April that McCann had come from a party, where he had been drinking and taking drugs for “two or three days”.

His barrister, Colman Cody SC, told the court that because of his “self-induced” state, McCann “harboured delusional beliefs” that the British army and gardaí were after him.

It seemed he was in the house, Mr Cody said, “with a view to evading these particular pursuers”.

Contending that his client should have been given a suspended sentence, Mr Cody said McCann was a first time offender with a previous good character and his guilty plea saved the victims from testifying. Furthermore, his remorse for the incident was “not in doubt” and probation services put him at the lowest level of propensity to reoffend.

Mr Cody said it was an “unusual and bizarre set of circumstances”. It was a “singular case” and what emerged from the evidence was that McCann's actions were going to cause as much harm to himself as to others, Mr Cody said.

Giving judgement today, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said McCann had forcefully entered the home of the victim and her three young children at 4pm on the day in question.

He unsuccessfully threw himself against a living room window before throwing a rock at the window and climbed in.

He put two young children into a cupboard and proceeded to take two knives from the kitchen holding one to his throat and waving the other around.

The woman and her children ran from their house to a neighbour's.

McCann then stole her car and crashed it into a wall.

On a roadway, he attempted to stop passing motorists and was banging heavily on their windows.

He then waded across the River Slaney before he was apprehended and taken to Gorey Garda Station.

The Circuit Court judge remarked that with easy access to drugs and unemployment people were able to binge not just for one day but over a number of days, the court heard.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Conor O'Doherty BL, said McCann had come from a nearby party where he had been drinking and taking drugs for “two or three days”.

Mr Justice Mahon said the woman was terrified of what might happen to her two young children. While it was now accepted in hindsight that McCann didn't intend to harm her or any of her children the affects on her were understandable, the judge said.

The fact that McCann did not intend to harm Ms Brown or her children was taken into account at sentencing, Mr Justice Mahon said. The three-judge court was satisfied of that.

He said McCann's effective sentence of three years with six months suspended sufficiently reflected the seriousness of the crime as well as the long lasting effect on the woman.

Indeed, if McCann had callously intended to do harm, a much higher sentence would have been warranted even after taking account of the mitigating factors, the judge said.

Furthermore, the suspension of the final six months was a sufficient measure to incentivise rehabilitation.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards said no error in sentencing could be found. The appeal was therefore dismissed.

By Ruaidhrí Giblin