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Lee McDonnell facing extra time behind bars following prosecutor's appeal

Sentence: McDonnell is facing an increased prison term following the appeal
Sentence: McDonnell is facing an increased prison term following the appeal

A man jailed for robbery and possession of an imitation firearm faces an increased prison sentence following an appeal by prosecutors.

Lee McDonnell (23), of Lough Conn road in Ballyfermot, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit robbery at Sarsfield Service Station, Ballyfermot on January 21 2012.

McDonnell also pleaded guilty to robbery of cigarettes and a sunglass case and to robbery of the shop assistant on the same occasion.

He was sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final three suspended by Judge Martin Nolan at on November 19 2012.

The Director of Public Prosecutions successfully appealed McDonnell's three year jail term today on grounds that it was unduly lenient.

The appeal was due to be heard before the three-judge Court of Appeal last December, however the court was told on that occasion that McDonnell was “not present” and was “not going to be produced due to circumstances beyond anybody's control”.

Counsel for the DPP, Michael Bowman SC, told the court today that the sentencing judge had erred in suspending 50 per cent of McDonnell's sentence.

The only basis on which 50 per cent of the sentence was suspended was McDonnell's relative youth, Mr Bowman said. He was 21 at the time of the offence.

Notwithstanding his youth, McDonnell had amassed 88 previous convictions, Mr Bowman said. 

“Most troublingly" was that McDonnell had previously received a four year sanction for hijacking a vehicle, the inference being that a four year term of imprisonment was not enough to deter a 21-year-old.

Mr Bowman said McDonnell displayed a gratuitous level of violence in the offence. He said the firearm had become superfluous by the time it was delployed, the robbery had been completed when it was used and the victim was retreating from the shop.

A witness had described the firearm as being 'cocked' and little weight could be attached to the fact that it was a replica, Mr Bowman said.

It was used to convey fear and was used to whip or assault the injured party. It was used to the “maximum effect,” he said.

Mr Bowman said the judge did not impose a sentence which reflected the gravity of the offending behaviour.

Mr Justice Michael Peart, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan, said the sentence imposed on McDonnell was “unduly lenient”. Mr Justice Peart said the suspended period effectively reduced McDonnell's sentence to one of three years imprisonment.

Furhtermore, the judge said, the firearm offence was “simply taken into account” in the global sense rather than receiving its own sentence.

A new sentencing hearing will take place next month.

There was a heightened security presence in court for the hearing including two armed gardaí.

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Read: Shocking extent of alleged crimes carried out by Lee McDonnell.