Man who intimidated sex worker into withdrawing criminal allegations has sentence reduced

Man who intimidated sex worker into withdrawing criminal allegations has sentence reduced

A married father-of-three, who intimidated a sex worker into withdrawing criminal allegations against him, has had his 18-month jail term reduced to nine on appeal.

The 40-year-old man from Munster, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had pleaded not guilty to two counts of threatening or putting a witness in a garda investigation in fear  on dates between April 29 and May 28, 2010.

He was found guilty by a jury following a six day trial and sentenced to three years imprisonment with the final 18 months suspended by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy on January 25, 2016.

The man successfully appealed his prison sentence today with the Court of Appeal holding that insufficient weight was afforded to the fact he was a first time offender as well as the severe impact incarceration would have on his very young family.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the man had an encounter with a prostitute and, arising from this, he sent her “lurid and threatening” messages that unless she withdrew criminal allegations against him, her family and neighbours would be informed of her work as a provider of sexual services.

There was no threat of violence involved, the judge said, and the man accepted at interview that he had sent the messages but denied they were sent with any hostile or intimidating purpose.

Mr Justice Mahon said the impact on the victim was “considerable”. She stated that she had been left terrified and with no support.

Each time the phone rang or she received an email, she immediately felt it was from the man attempting to intimidate her, she had stated.

Mr Justice Mahon said the mitigating factors were identified as the man's lack of previous convictions, his otherwise good character and good employment record. A character witness described him as a “very straight” and “very decent kind of person”.

The man had been a self-employed accountant at the time of the offence and the sole breadwinner for his wife and three “very young children”, the judge said.

His barrister, Thomas Creed SC, told the court that he had difficulties getting social welfare and the family home was in danger due to the failure to make mortgage payments.

The offences “called for a custodial sentence” given their seriousness, the impact on the victim, the threat posed to the administration of justice and public interest, the judge said.

However, the Court of Appeal identified errors in his sentence. Insufficient weight was afforded to the fact that he was a first time offender with little likelihood of reoffending and insufficient weight was afforded to the adverse affects prison would have on his young family, the judge said.

In general, Mr Justice Mahon said, the courts seek to avoid imposing immediate custodial sentences on first time offenders where the likelihood of re offending was remote.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the 18 month prison sentences were appropriate but the Court of Appeal directed that they be concurrent rather than consecutive. The final nine months was suspended for two years post release.

He was required to enter into a good behaviour bond and when asked if he undertook to be so bound, he said: “Yes, I do”.