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Man who imprisoned couple on Achill Island loses appeal against sentence

CourtsBy Sunday World
gavel 3.jpg
gavel 3.jpg

A man jailed for falsely imprisoning a couple on Achill Island on Valentine's night six years ago has lost an appeal against the severity of his 9-year jail term.

Michael McMahon (49), with an address at The Loakers, Blackrock, Co Louth, had pleaded guilty at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court to assault causing harm to Seán Lavelle and to the false imprisonment of Mr Lavelle and his wife Emer, at their home on Achill Island on February 14, 2010.

He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment with the final three suspended by Mr Justice Tony Hunt on January 16, 2012.

McMahon had an appeal against the severity of his sentence dismissed today on the single ground that the judge erred in failing to attach sufficient weight to his offer of compensation to the victims.

His barrister, Hugh Hartnett SC, submitted that the offer of compensation, albeit rejected by the victims, entitled him to a further, if modest, discount in sentencing.

Giving judgment in the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the victims had returned home on the evening in question having been out socialising.

They were met in their home by two men in balaclavas and dark boiler suits, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

Mr Lavelle was taken to the bedroom where his hands and legs were tied and he was struck to the shins with a nail bar.

Ms Lavelle was also tied up. Her arms, legs and mouth were taped, Mr Justice Sheehan said.

A neighbour appeared to have come across McMahon and his accomplice making good their escape and pursued them, the judge said.

While in pursuit, the neighbour informed the gardaí of their position and the vehicle was eventually stopped by a roadblock where McMahon and his co-accused, his late brother, were apprehended.

Mr Justice Sheehan said both injured parties were deeply traumatised so much so that Mr Lavelle was unable to continue living in the family home.

In victim impact reports, Mr Lavelle said the experience had changed his life forever. He found it impossible to settle down in his home now and was constantly anxious and unable to sleep.

Ms Lavelle stated that each time she turns the key in the door she's frozen with fear waiting to hear whether there are unusual sounds in the house.

McMahon had offered €5,000 as compensation to the victims with the promise that a further €15,000 would be provided within a week. This was refused by the injured parties.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the argument made my McMahon's barrister appeared to be wholly predicated on the premise that the minimum a person could expect for pleading guilty to an offence would be a 25 per cent reduction in sentence.

However, no authority had been advanced to support that contention, the judge said.

Even if it were the case, he said the Court of Appeal still had to consider whether the overall sentence was excessive.

The facts spoke for themselves, Mr Justice Sheehan said. “No injustice attached to the outcome” of the case.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, dismissed the appeal.