Ringleader in violent "spine chilling" robbery has sentence reduced

The 20-year-old held a knife to the student's throat and commented that he would 'give him a quick' cut
The 20-year-old held a knife to the student's throat and commented that he would 'give him a quick' cut

The ringleader behind a “spine chilling” attack in which a student was “frog marched” to an ATM machine and told to withdraw money or his girlfriend would be raped by two accomplices, has had his jail term reduced on appeal.

The 20-year-old, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, robbery and false imprisonment at Botanic Avenue, Dublin 9 on April 27 2011.

He was sentenced to six years detention by Judge Martin Nolan on March 29 2012.

The Court of Appeal heard that the victims were a young woman and her civil-engineering-student boyfriend who had broken up as a result of the incident.

The boyfriend blamed himself for not being able to spare his girlfriend from the ordeal. She moved back to live with her parents while he cut short his college career.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Anne Rowland BL, said the yong offender was “the ringleader” from the time he entered the house with his accomplices.

He held a knife to the student's throat and commented that he would 'give him a quick' cut while moving it across his face.

After he had gotten €40 from the victims, he told them 'you better get more than that or I'll slice you' and referring to the student's girlfriend, he said 'I'll hurt her if you don't give me the PIN number' to an ATM card.

The boyfriend was then “frog marched” from his girlfriend's home to a nearby ATM machine while his girlfriend was held back at the house by two accomplices. The victim was told that if he didn't comply his girlfriend would be raped, Ms Rowland said.

Eventually, at 11:15pm €600 was withdrawn from the ATM and there were suggestions that they would wait until midnight to get another withdrawel.

Ms Rowland said the motvation behind the offence was money.

In identifying an error in the 20-year-old's six year sentence, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the final 12 months should have been suspended.

Obviously he was a child “out of control”, Mr Justice Mahon said, who needed rehabilitation if there was any chance of him avoiding a life of serious crime as an adult.

The offender, although young and still 15 when he committed this offence, was a “hardened criminal” who had accumulated 23 previous convictions and was on bail at the time for a number of robberies.

What occured was “spine chilling”, Mr Justice Mahon said, and “quite horrific”.

He used gratuitous violence and threatened his victims with violence to ensure they did what he demanded. They were completely at his mercy, did not resist and were unlikely to resist, the judge said.

If the offender had been an adult it could be said that the six year sentence was unduly lenient.

However, what made this case different was the offender's very young age at the time.

Mr Justice Mahon said these cases required particular attention on the question of rehabilitation. A section of the Children's Act states that detention must only be imposed as a last resort, as had been submitted by his barrister, John Aylmer SC.

The judge said the courts had struggled for some time with that concept and the need to balance between protecting society and providing for rehabilitation.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the six year sentence will remain but he suspended the final 12 months.

The 20-year-old was required to enter into his own bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for the suspended period of his sentence plus two years post release.

When asked if he undertook to be so bound, the 20-year-old nodded and said “yeah”.

He was returned to Wheatfield prison to continue serving out his sentence.

Ruaidhrí Giblin