NewsCrime Desk

Sentence increase for man broke into ex’s bedroom armed with knife

Sentence increase for man broke into ex’s bedroom armed with knife

A man who had difficulty accepting his former wife had moved on and started a new relationship has had the suspended part of a sentence for aggravated burglary at her home extended.

Andrzej Topolski (50), with a last address in Castlebar, Co Mayo, had pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary at his former wife's house in Blackfort Manor, Castlebar on March 22 2015.

Topolski had served 11 months in custody awaiting sentence before Judge Rory McCabe at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court suspended the unserved balance of a three-year term on conditions on July 5, 2016.

The Court of Appeal increased the length of Topolski's suspended sentence today on foot of an undue leniency review brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Polish national left court with a lengthier suspended sentence having undertaken to be of good behaviour and to have no contact with the injured party or his former wife for five years.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the injured party's girlfriend was Topolski's former wife and together they had a number of children. The accused's marriage had broken down some five years earlier and Topolski had difficulty accepting that she had moved on and had started a new relationship – with the injured party

Mr Justice Birmingham said the injured party was in bed with her when he woke at approximately 4.45am to find Topolski crawling along the side of the bed.

Topolski had entered the dwelling having suggested the door was open. Having done so, he equipped himself with a knife from the kitchen.

The precise circumstances of what happened in the bedroom were less than 100% clear, Mr Justice Birmingham said, but the injured party received puncture wounds to his left hand, described as “defence wounds” in the Circuit Court.

Mr Justice Birmingham said Topolski had moved to Ireland in 2005 and had worked in the construction industry in Westport and Castlebar for a number of years.

Some years after arriving to Ireland, he brought his wife and children to join him.

After serving 11 months in custody awaiting sentence, the Circuit Court judge was prepared to admit Topolski to bail to require him to stay away from Castlebar.

Depending on how he behaved would determine how much, if any, of a three year sentence he would be required to serve, the Circuit Court judge had said.

Counsel for the DPP, Patrick Reynolds BL, submitted that this case was particularly serious as it involved an entry, not just into the dwelling, but into the bedroom.

If there's one place a person should feel safe it's in their own bed, Mr Reynolds said.

Moreover, Mr Reynolds said the value of Topolski's guilty plea was tempered by “overwhelming” evidence.

The knife was recovered from Topolski's car, the victim's blood and Topolski's fingerprints were found on the knife and there were four eyewitnesses.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court was in complete agreement that aggravated burglary was a serious offence.

But this particular offence was not what might be described as a “classic” aggravated burglary.

It occurred in a “domestic” context rather than in the more usual context of being committed for gain.

That said, the Court of Appeal held the starting point should have been higher. Seven years rather than five would have been more appropriate before mitigation.

Topolski's barrister, Diarmuid Connolly BL, submitted that his client had achieved gainful employment and had turned away from criminal conduct since being admitted to bail.

Ultimately, the desire that sentencing should achieve rehabilitation had been achieved in this case, he submitted.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the Court of Appeal was conscious that Topolski had been at liberty for 17 months and had secured gainful employment as a stone mason.

While the case was “finely balanced”, incarcerating Topolski now would be harsh and not appropriate, the judge said.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would increase the sentence to five years but would suspend the unserved portion for five years.

Topolski was required to enter into a good behaviour bond and to undertake to have no contact with the injured party or his former wife for five years.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the object of the lengthy suspended sentence was to ensure there will be no further incidents and to provide a degree of assurance to the injured party that Topolski will have every reason not to behave in a fashion that would see the sentence activated.