Sentence increase for addict who set fire to home with mother and child inside

Robert Murphy pleaded guilty to multiple offences at Dublin District Court
Robert Murphy pleaded guilty to multiple offences at Dublin District Court

A drug addict jailed for setting fire to a house with a mother and young child inside has been given an extra four years in jail following an appeal by prosecutors.

Robert Murphy (32), with an address at Fortlawn Avenue, Blanchardstown, Dublin, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to to possessing a knife in the Fortlawn Park area on May 14 2012, discharging a firearm at a premises in Fortlawn Park on July 7 2012 and arson at Kiltipper Drive, Tallaght on November 27 2013.

Judge Desmond Hogan handed Murphy an effective sentence of nine years imprisonment with five suspended on October 10 2014.

The Court of Appeal had agreed last month with counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Fergal Foley BL, that Murphy's sentence was “unduly lenient” and the three-judge court imposed a new sentence on him today of 11 years imprisonment with three suspended.

Mr Foley told the court that a garda found Murphy “equipped with” a flick knife – a very dangerous weapon – in the Fortlawn Park area in May 2012.

While on bail for that incident, Mr Foley said, Murphy discharged a sawn-off shotgun at the door of a house, injuring the householder with superficial wounds as he retreated up the stairs.

Murphy, as well as the hosueholder, were lucky not to be in court on a more serious charge, Mr Foley said.

Again, while on bail for that offence, Mr Foley said Murphy set fire to a house occupied by a mother and young child in an “absolutely terrifying attack”. It was the most serious of the three offences, he said.

The mother was in bed at the time and “had to escape through a bedroom window with her child,” Mr Foley said.

Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan asked Mr Foley if he knew why Murphy was given station bail before committing the second and third offences when he was a known heroin addict.

Mr Foley told the judge that the gardaí would have to answer that question.

He described Murphy as a “career criminal” with 60 previous convictions, six of which were for possession of knives.

Mr Foley said Murphy's sentence for each offence was unduly lenient but taken as a whole, where there was more time suspended than to be served, was also unduly lenient.

Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan said the appropriate sentence for the arson offence was nine years imprisonment with the final three suspended.

Mr Justice Sheehan said the appropriate sentence for the firearms offence was five years in prison with no suspension having regard to the fact that both sentences are to run concurrently and the suspension would effectively be served while he was in prison.

While both sentences were to run concurrently, the court made them consecutive to the two year sentence imposed for the first offence.

Mr Justice Sheehan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, said Murphy was left with an overall effective sentence of eight years imprisonment.

Ruaidhrí Giblin