unlawful killing | 

Dublin burglar who set fire to house causing death of resident jailed for eight years

Dean Boland broke into a downstairs apartment of the property where Ohari Viera lived, stole a rucksack and set fire to the building

Dean Boland

Dean Boland

Sonya McLean and Claire HenrySunday World

A Dublin man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for the unlawful killing of a kitchen porter who died after the home he was living in was set on fire.

Dean Boland (35) had broken into a downstairs apartment of a Dublin residential property where Ohari Viera was living, stole a rucksack and set fire to the property. Mr Viera had been living in an upstairs apartment with two other men, and all three managed to evacuate the building safely as soon as they became aware of the fire downstairs.

The men were waiting outside when Mr Viera went back into the house for an unknown reason. He never returned and others who tried to go into the property after him were prevented in doing as the building became engulfed in smoke and flames.

Boland of Northwood, Santry was convicted last December by a Dublin Circuit Criminal Court jury of the unlawful killing of Ohari Viera, damaging property by arson and burglary at Oaklands Terrace, Terenure, on August 21, 2018.

He had pleaded not guilty to the offences. His previous convictions are District Court offences, including an assault and is currently serving a prison sentence for attempted robbery.

Passing sentence today, Judge Elma Sheahan said she would sentence Boland on the charge of manslaughter and set a headline sentence of ten years. The judge noted that Boland does not accept the verdict of the jury.

Dean Boland

Judge Sheahan said the facts of this case are unusual in that Boland set fire to a residential property during the night when several people were staying. The deceased had left the property but re-entered the home after the fire started.

The judge said Boland has high moral culpability and said she was taking into consideration the victim impact statement of Mr Viera’s daughter.

Judge Sheahan noted that Boland had a longstanding drug addiction and was homeless at the time. He was intoxicated when he started the fire but remained at the scene, she also noted before imposed the eight year prison sentence to run from the date of conviction last December.

Judge Sheahan acknowledged the dignity of Mr Viera’s daughter throughout the trial and thanked both the prosecuting and defence lawyers for the manner in which the trial was conducted.

Ms Viera said she “has some sympathy” for Boland and spoke of how he had no one in court to support him during the trial.

She said her father was a brother, an uncle, a father and a grandfather. She spoke of being escorted to the hospital when her father was taken there and said she was “traumatised when the machine was switched off the next day”.

It was the State’s case that Boland had broken into a downstairs apartment of the house where Mr Viera was living, stole a rucksack and set fire to the property. The investigation never established what started the fire, but a forensic examiner concluded that it was “a consequence of a deliberate act”.

Officers from the Dublin Fire Service found Mr Viera in an upstairs room and he was taken by ambulance to St James' Hospital. A statement from Dr Linda Mulligan, State Pathologist, stated that Mr Viera's cause of death was cardiac arrest following the inhalation of smoke and other fire gases.

In her victim impact report Mr Viera’s daughter, Tatiana said she came to Ireland with her father, who was originally from Angola, as a child. She said he had “a complicated journey” which “ended sadly with his death”.

Ms Viera said that as an African national, she grew up with a distrust of the police, but through the trial, she learned “the truth of the system” and spoke of the “kind humanity of the police” towards her.

She said she asked a lot of questions about the legal system and found it “marvellous”. She thanked the judge and jury and said that the prosecution barrister and his team greatly supported her.

Referring to Boland, she said, “you have a life and future. You can go on to get married and have children and grandchildren….my son will never have that with my Dad”. Ms Viera said she hoped her experience “opens the eyes of the African community” to the police system in Ireland, adding, “there is no need to be afraid”.

She concluded her victim impact statement by again giving thanks for the support she received during the trial. “I am looking forward to a future. I will never forget all you kind and thoughtful people,” Ms Viera said.

Seamus Clarke SC, prosecuting, told Judge Elma Sheahan that the Director of Public Prosecutions put this case in the high range of manslaughter offences.

He submitted to the court that the fact that Mr Viera went back into the building at the particular time was “very unfortunate”, as anyone who tried to get back into the building after him could not actually get in because of the extent of the fire.He suggested that this should be taken into account in relation to the assessment of the case.

Garret Baker SC, defending, said that his client maintains a “lack of criminal liability” and disagrees with the jury’s verdict. He asked the court to accept that there was no evidence that Boland knew there were occupants upstairs in the property, but counsel accepted that there is “an inherent risk” in setting a fire in a building.

He reminded the court that the fire was set in a downstairs apartment that was totally unoccupied at the time. Mr Baker referred to case law in terms of where to place the offence in the range of seriousness.

He asked the court to accept that his client has no relevant previous convictions for arson or manslaughter, that there was no history of violence between Boland and Mr Viera and that there was no confrontation involving a lethal weapon.

Counsel said that there had been a successful evacuation of the building, and “Mr Viera decided to re-enter the property and very unfortunately succumbed to the fire”.

Judge Elma Sheahan said she wanted to thank Ms Viera for her victim impact statement and said she has shown “a level of kindness”, which is unusual in such a case involving the tragic loss of her father.

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