Thug who 'basically incinerated’ victim he believed was an informer loses appeal
Shaun Groome repeatedly stabbed Mr Murphy before pouring petrol on him
A man jailed for 15 years for his role in an assault that saw a man stabbed 16 times in his own sitting room before being "basically incinerated" when set alight has failed in his appeal against the length of his sentence.
In December 2020, Shaun Groome was sentenced at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for the attack, with the court hearing that Groome told gardai he had not been happy with the victim's response to the death of a close friend of his.
The sentencing court heard that the Garda view was that the victim, Ciarán Murphy, was a low-level drug dealer and Groome (34) was acting on misinformation that Mr Murphy was a Garda informant.
Groome, of Ballinderry, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, pleaded guilty to one count of assault causing serious harm to Mr Murphy at Coolcor, Rhode, Co Offaly between September 6 and 7, 2015.
Groome's co-accused, David Keena, of Carrig Mor, Ballynacargy, Mullingar, who was 17 at the time of the offence, was jailed in October 2020 for five years for his role in the attack.
Keena had bought a can of petrol and had travelled with Groome to Mr Murphy's address. Both men entered the premises and Groome repeatedly stabbed Mr Murphy before pouring petrol on him. Keena then threw the can into a stove which caused Mr Murphy to be set alight.
Mr Murphy was later found in a dog cage into which he had crawled to try to put out the flames with water from the dog’s bowl. The sentencing hearing was told that Mr Murphy spent a significant time in hospital with life-threatening injuries, lost his ears and continues to suffer constant pain.
Judge Martin Nolan said Mr Murphy had been “basically incinerated” in the attack during which he incurred severe knife injuries and burns to 96pc of his body.
Judge Nolan said it seemed Groome had “murderous intent” that night but noted the guilty plea to the assault causing serious harm.
He said the level of violence brought the offence into the “exceptional” category and set a headline sentence of 20 years' imprisonment.
He reduced the sentence to 15 years but said he did not see any reason to impose any suspended part.
At the Court of Appeal today, Desmond Dockery SC, for Groome, said his client should have had more of a discount from his sentence due to his early guilty plea and his mitigating circumstances.
Mr Dockery said that his 34-year-old client admitted that the assault on Mr Murphy was a "grave and serious" one and had also identified himself to gardaí on CCTV footage captured when he was walking around Mullingar on the night in clothes that were later found discarded on the road near the scene.
Mr Dockery said that he accepted the matter was in the exceptional category for an assault that had "life-long implications for the victim".
Counsel said his client could have been entitled to a 25pc discount on the guilty plea alone.
Mr Dockery said that it had not been exactly clear what mitigation the judge gave in addition to the plea.
Mr Justice George Birmingham, presiding at the three-judge court, said the guilty plea from Groome was not an early one as he had absconded to the UK and had to be brought back on a European Arrest Warrant and only then pleaded guilty, which Mr Dockery acknowledged.
Mr Dockery said the guilty plea was "timely" and that Groome had never sought a trial date. Counsel said the plea spared the victim and family from the "ordeal of giving evidence" at a trial from which the State was spared "great expense".
At Groome's sentencing, the judge identified the accused as being capable of reform, noting that he had a work history and had completed his Leaving Cert.
Mr Dockery said his client had shown genuine remorse and had written a letter of apology to both his victim and the trial judge.
Counsel said Groome had also sustained "very severe burns" to his legs and had been a "good and caring" father of two children, one of whom has autism.
Mr Dockery said Groome had also been the victim of abuse as a child when aged between seven and 11 by an unrelated adult male.
Counsel said Groome's alcohol and drug addiction led to him amassing a drug-debt which was "the whole background" to the offence.
Mr Dockery said the trial judge was canvassed about receiving a probation report regarding suspending a portion of the sentence but that Judge Nolan responded that "if fifteen years doesn't reform him, nothing will".
Mr Dockery said Groome was being held in Portlaoise Prison on an enhanced landing and certificates were handed into the court in evidence of Groome's efforts to address his anger and addiction issues.
Garret McCormack BL for the DPP stressed that Groome had to be the subject of an extradition warrant before his guilty plea, which was only entered upon his return to Ireland.
Mr McCormack said the trial judge was a very experienced one who gave full credit for the plea and "correctly and carefully" took into account the mitigating circumstances in sentencing along with considering Groome's 14 previous convictions.
In dismissing the appeal today, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said Groome's behaviour was "appalling" in a case where his victim had lost his ears.
Ms Justice Kennedy said the injuries suffered by Mr Murphy were "truly shocking, devastating and had caused life-long injury".
Ms Justice Kennedy said the 20-year headline sentence was at the outer limits for assault causing serious harm but was within the margin for sentencing in exceptional cases.
The judge said the plea entered by Groome was "very late" and noted that Groome had to be extradited.
Ms Justice Kennedy said the trial judge had correctly considered the mitigating factors in the case and that the amount of time discounted from the sentence was "entirely appropriate".
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