Man who helped dispose of a dead body won't face increased sentence

Alan Harte
Alan Harte

A man who assisted in the disposal of a body and impeded a murder investigation will not face an increased sentence despite an appeal by prosecutors.

Alan Harte (34), with a last address at Clareville Grove, Glasnevin, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of his friend Peter Gunn (29) at Phibsborough in the capital on January 4 2009 but admitted helping to dispose of his body at Dunsoughly Lane, The Ward.

A Central Criminal Court jury returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty of murder but guilty of assisting in the disposal of Mr Gunn's body on May 20 2014.

Peter Gunn was found dead at Dunsoghly Lane in The Ward on January 15th, 2009. He had been missing for 11 days before his body was found and a post-mortem indicated he had been stabbed to death.

Harte was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final three suspended by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on June 18 2014.

The Director of Public Prosecutions unsuccessfully sought a review of Harte's sentence today on grounds that it was unduly lenient.

Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal today, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said Harte had gone with Mr Gunn to a public house on Parnell Street in the capital and at around midnight they were joined by another person, Kastriot Boza.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the three men eventually left and travelled to the home of Boza where Mr Gunn was stabbed and killed.

The prosecutions case had been that the killing was done by Harte, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Another man, sometime after the killing drove his car to the flat and unknowingly assisted Boza and Harte in bringing the body of the deceased to a remote lane at the back of the airport, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

At that location, the judge said Boza and Harte removed the deceased's body from the car and put it in a water filled trench.

Boza (41), who is now in the witness protection programme, was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final two suspended. His sentence was reduced by two years in the first criminal case heard by the new Court of Appeal last November.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the onus was on the DPP to prove undue leniency and a substantial departure had to be proved.

In applying the principles of undue leniency applications to the present case, Mr Justice Sheehan said the sentencing judge took into account the seriousness of the offence, the victim impact statements which were read to court as well as the personal circumstances of the offender.

It was clear from an examination of the transcript that the judge in sentencing applied the pricinples of proportionality and also sought to reconsile that principle with the penal aim of rehabilitation.

It was the Court of Appeal's view that this was not a case where it could be said the trial judge erred either in his approach to sentencing or the sentence imposed.

“Undoubtedly some would view this sentence” as being on the lenient side, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

He added that the terms on which the portion was suspended were onerous and were an additonal sanction.

Furthermore, he said it was clear from the Court of Appeal hearing that the gap between the parties was “in fact a relatively narrow one”.

The DPP had complained that a portion of the suspended sentence should be removed and the respondent be returned to prison to serve a sentence of “perhaps a year or 18 months,” Mr Justice Sheehan said.

In circumstances where Harte had been released and was under the active supervision of the probation service, he said a response such as thsi seemed to be “disproportionate and counter productive at this point”

Mr Justice Sheehan said the sentence imposed by the judge in this case did not constitute a substantial or gross departure in the particular circumstances of the case.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, said the court held the sentence imposed was not unduly lenient.