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Tattooist who killed naked heroin addict loses appeal against sentence

The court heard Flaherty found the mother of his child in bed with a heroin addict
The court heard Flaherty found the mother of his child in bed with a heroin addict

A tattooist jailed for killing a man he found naked in bed with the mother of his child has lost an appeal against his seven-and-a-half year jail term for manslaughter.

John Flaherty, (29), of Árd Daire, Ferrybank, Waterford, had denied murdering Patrick Murphy (27) at The Glen, Waterford on June 20 2010.

A jury at a Waterford sitting of the Central Criminal Court found Flaherty not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final two-and-a-half suspended by Mr Justice George Birmingham on November 25 2011.

The Court of Appeal heard today that Flaherty had been in an “on-off” relationship with the lady whose house he went into on the night in question.

Inside he found his former girlfriend, and mother of his child, in bed with a naked man who he knew was a heroin addict.

There was a child in the bed as well as €500 worth of heroin.

The court heard Flaherty was under a suspended sentence at the time having only recently been released from custody for slitting the face of another man with a piece of glass.

Counsel for Flaherty, Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha SC, submitted that the sentencing judge did not give appropriate credit for time his client spent in custody awaiting trial.

Mr Ó Lideadha said Flaherty was punished four times for one matter of substance.

The suspended sentence was activated, it was treated as an aggravating factor and the manslaughter sentence was made consecutive to it, counsel said.

No complaint could be made about those three modes of punishment, Mr Ó Lideadha submitted, but the refusal to give Flaherty credit for 17 months spent in custody awaiting trial was not appropriate.

The suspended sentence was not reactivated until the day before he was sentenced and it should have been cancelled out by the fact he had spent 17 months in custody awaiting trial, Mr Ó Lideadha said.

Mr Ó Lideadha said Flaherty accepted that a substantial sentence was required. He offered to plead guilty to manslaughter, made full admissions to the gardaí and co-operated at trial.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Patrick McCarthy SC, said Flaherty went into the house at 5am, he attacked the person in the bedroom, left, went downstairs, took a knife from the kitchen and went back to the bedroom.

Mr McCarthy said the sentencing judge took on board time spent in custody.

Dismissing Flaherty's appeal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said the sentencing judge built into the sentencing structure an element of discount to the degree he believed appropriate by suspending an additional 12 months.

While it was generally the practice to allow for full time spent in custody, he said it wasn't mandatory and sentening judges had wide discretion in that regard.

Mr Justice Mahon said the three-judge court was satisfied that the headline sentence of 10 years was appropriate and the suspension of the final two-and-a-half years adequately reflected the totality principle.

Accordingly, Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, dismissed the appeal.