No jail for man who held knife to friend's throat before setting house on fire
A man who held a knife to his friend's throat and threatened to kill him before starting a fire in his home has been spared jail.
Derek Aylmer (39) also threatened to also take his own life during the six hour incident on Christmas night 2013.
He had been living in his friend, Gerard Sheridan's house at the time and has since returned to live there again.
Aylmer pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to criminal damage at the house in Walkinstown Road, Dublin. He has no previous convictions.
Mr Sheridan, an addiction counsellor acting as a defence witness, took the stand at a previous hearing and told Caroline Biggs SC defending, that he understood that Aylmer suffered from depression.
He said, however, that he believed the man was “even better today than he had been previous to the incident”.
Mr Sheridan assured Judge Martin Nolan that Aylmer had made amends for his behaviour and he felt safe living in the same house as him.
“I didn't see his intentions (that night) as being malicious. I felt he was lonely over Christmas. He had not visited anyone over Christmas. I had visited people that day and he may have resented me or have been jealous of me,” Mr Sheridan said.
“I felt it was more an internal thing. It was never seen before by me and has never been seen since. It was totally out of character,” the witness continued.
He told Judge Nolan that Aylmer had since become more aware of his depression, had engaged with the appropriate services and tended to look for help now rather than “internalising his depression” as he had been doing.
“Rather than a crisis situation arising, he is more aware now of when he is unwell and looks for help,” Mr Sheridan told the court before he agreed with Ms Biggs that Aylmer was on the waiting list for an alcohol awareness programme.
Mr Sheridan told Judge Nolan that he had “faith” in the man's recovery and he believed that time Aylmer spent in prison on remand was “a short, sharp shock” for him.
He said the man now spent his time maintaining the house and helping him to re-decorate it from the damage the fire caused.
Judge Nolan previously said at that time that Mr Sheridan's evidence was “very helpful and very forgiving” and said the man had convinced him not to imprison Aylmer.
Today Judge Nolan ordered that Aylmer carry out 150 hours community service in lieu of a two year prison sentence.
Garda Kevin McHugh told Elva Duffy BL, prosecuting, that Mr Sheridan returned home Christmas night at 3am and checked on Aylmer. He said the accused was hostile and had been drinking heavily.
He followed Mr Sheridan into the kitchen and knocked food out of his hand before he grabbed him by the throat and held him against the wall.
Aylmer refused to allow Mr Sheridan to leave the kitchen and repeatedly told the man “this is going to end tonight”.
He got a bread knife and a smaller knife from a drawer which he later held to both his and his friend’s throat. He told Mr Sheridan “we both aren't going to get out of this alive”.
Gda McHugh confirmed that Mr Sheridan understood that Aylmer also intended to self harm.
He said that after six hours Mr Sheridan was allowed out of the kitchen after Aylmer suggested that he should call the gardaí.
The gardaí were alerted and arrived ten minutes later when Aylmer locked himself into the house and started a fire in a box bedroom.
He had also threatened to harm any officers that came into the house and threw flower pots and plates at gardaí when they went into the building.
Gda McHugh said a number of officers tried to get Aylmer out of the house, but he pushed one garda away and refused to leave the room. He was ultimately escorted out of the house by firemen after they were called to the scene and gardaí had left the building for their own safety.
Gda McHugh agreed with Ms Biggs that Mr Sheridan gave his own address to allow Aylmer out on bail pending sentence.
He agreed that it was his intention when he arrived at Walkinstown Road to arrest the man under the Mental Health Act as he immediately recognised this was “a mental health issue”.
Gda McHugh accepted that Aylmer had since sold a car and gave money to Mr Sheridan to help pay for damages caused to his home.
He also accepted a suggestion from Ms Biggs that Aylmer was the only person in the house when he started the fire and that he was “hell bent on doing himself damage”.