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Unprovoked attack Man who said he was HIV positive while threatening Luas security with syringe loses sentence appeal

He was drunk and disturbing others and when two Luas security guards asked him to move on he became aggressive and abusive.

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Stock image: Court Room

Stock image: Court Room

Stock image: Court Room

A drug addict who said he was HIV positive when he threatened to stab two Luas security guards with a syringe has lost an appeal against the severity of his four-year sentence.

Joseph Griffiths (36), who was homeless at the time, pleaded guilty at the Circuit Criminal Court to making threats with a syringe contrary to the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997. In July 2019 Judge Elma Sheahan sentenced him to four years in prison.

Sean Prendiville BL for Griffiths argued today that the sentence was unfair given that his client did not use any actual violence. While counsel accepted the threats were frightening, he added that "all threats are not equal" and the victims in this case were not elderly or vulnerable.

He said: "The victims were strong, well-prepared men wearing extensive protective equipment who easily disarmed the Appellant." He said Judge Sheahan had focused too much on the aggravating factor of the HIV threat and not enough on the mitigating factors including Griffiths' long history of drug abuse and his efforts to stop using drugs.

Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy today delivered judgement on behalf of the three-judge Court of Appeal. She said Griffiths had been one of a group of people drinking on the platform of the Luas stop at Heuston Station on August 28, 2013.

He was drunk and disturbing others and when two Luas security guards asked him to move on he became aggressive and abusive. He took a syringe from his pocket, pointed it at the security guards and said he was HIV positive and would stab them in the neck. When he turned his back the security guards wrestled him to the ground and held him until gardai arrived.

Having watched CCTV footage of the incident Ms Kennedy said Griffiths' behaviour was "frightening and volatile" and she described the offence as an "unwarranted and unprovoked attack on two men doing their jobs." She noted Griffiths' 18 previous convictions.

Ms Justice Kennedy said there was no error by the sentencing judge when she set a headline sentence of five years. She also found no fault with a reduction to four years after Judge Sheahan considered mitigating factors including Griffith's efforts to stop using drugs. She therefore dismissed the appeal.

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