Man who assaulted and falsely imprisoned partner avoids return to jail despite “unduly lenient” sentence ruling

Man who assaulted and falsely imprisoned partner avoids return to jail despite “unduly lenient” sentence ruling

A man who imprisoned his partner and was “sharpening knives at the end of the bed” while gardaí were outside, has been spared a return to jail despite a finding that his original six month term was “unduly lenient”.

Brian McLaughlin (23), with an address at St Oran's Road, Buncrana, Co Donegal, had pleaded guilty to assaulting his partner and falsely imprisoning her at their family home in Buncrana on October 20, 2013.

He was sentenced at Letterkenny Circuit Criminal Court to three years imprisonment with the final two-and-a-half suspended by Judge Francis Comerford on July 14, 2015.

The Director of Public Prosecutions successfully sought a review of McLaughlin's sentence today, with the Court of Appeal finding it “unduly lenient”.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said McLaughlin and his partner had been out celebrating her birthday when McLaughlin left in a “somewhat aggrieved state of mind”.

Ms McLaughlin indicated that when she got home, he was standing at the door waiting for her. When she entered, he locked the door behind her, followed her up to the bedroom and punched her to the face with his fist, the judge said.

McLaughlin put his hands around her neck “strangling her”, the judge said. She was unable to breath and thought he would kill her. He twisted her arm and pushed her head into the blanket such that she found it difficult to breath.

The next thing she could remember, he was leaning over her pleading with her to wake up.

She called the gardaí who were able to see her when they arrived at 1.55am but McLaughlin refused the gardaí entry or to release her, the judge said. At this point, McLaughlin had armed himself with a 10 inch kitchen knife.

He was finally persuaded to release Ms McLaughlin at 4.40am following a phone call to him from his father.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the sentencing judge held that the root of McLaughlin's offending could be found in his mental health problems.

While that may have been justified, Mr Justice Sheehan said it remained “a fact that his voluntary consumption of alcohol contributed to his criminal offending” and did not excuse his responsibility for theses offences.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the victim's injuries, the time she spent imprisoned and the fact that McLaughlin was “sharpening knives at the end of the bed while the gardaí were outside”, meant the length of the custodial sentence amounted to a substantial departure from what would have been appropriate.

He said the court could not avoid the fact that McLaughlin has been out of prison for more than six months, had moved to a new part of Donegal and appeared to be making progress.

A new probation report was available which presented a very different situation to the one outlined in an earlier report. It noted that McLaughlin had attended appointments with the probation service, had engaged with doctors and had made efforts to address the factors he needed to address.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the court also had a reasonably detailed psychiatric report which recounted periods of time he had spent as an inpatient.

McLaughlin was now drug free and engaging with relevant services. Mr Justice Sheehan said this was not happening at the time of the original sentence.

Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice Paul Butler and Mr Justice John Edwards said the court had considered returning McLaughlin to prison for a further period of time but was unsure whether this would serve the interests of society.

The Court of Appeal resentenced him to three years imprisonment and suspended the balance on condition McLaughlin enter a good behaviour bond “with strict terms” for the suspended period and have no further contact with the injured party.

When asked if he undertook to be so bound, McLaughlin said “yes, I do”.