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Saturday 3 December 2016

Violent robber Lee McDonnell is given two more years in jail as sentence too lenient

Lee McDonnell
Lee McDonnell

A DUBLIN man who pistol-whipped a garage worker and stole a number of items has been given an extra two years in jail after prosecutors lodged an appeal, saying his original sentence was too lenient.

Lee McDonnell (23), of Lough Conn Road, Ballyfermot, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit robbery at Sarsfield Service Station, Ballyfermot, on January 21, 2012.

He also pleaded guilty to theft of cigarettes and a sunglasses case and to robbery of the shop assistant on the same occasion. He was sentenced to six years with the final three suspended by Judge Martin Nolan on November 19, 2012.

The Director of Public Prosecutions successfully appealed against McDonnell's three-year jail term on that grounds that it was "unduly lenient", and the Court of Appeal imposed a new effective sentence on him yesterday of six years with the final year suspended.

The appeal was due to be heard before the three-judge Court of Appeal last December, but the court was told on that occasion that McDonnell was "not present" and was "not going to be produced due to circumstances beyond anybody's control".

Speaking on behalf of the Court of Appeal yesterday, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said McDonnell and another man entered a service station in Ballyfermot. Both were hooded and McDonnell carried an imitation firearm.

An employee was pistol-whipped and another was robbed of his possessions, but there was a timelock on the safe in the premises, Mr Justice Mahon said, and there was no necessity for the firearm to be inflicted on the employee.

Mr Justice Mahon said the judge had erred in his approach to sentencing by merely taking the firearms offence into account when he sentenced McDonnell for robbery.

The court imposed a new sentence of four years for the robbery charge and six years with the final year suspended for the firearm offence. Both sentences are to run concurrently.

The court was obliged to impose the concurrent sentences consecutive to a five year sentence imposed on McDonnell in Naas in July 2014 for a burglary committed on March 15 2011. He was on bail for this offence when he committed the Ballyfermot robbery, the court heard.

The court was also told that McDonnell is serving a nine-year sentence with two suspended for aggravated burglary.

Mr Justice Michael Peart said McDonnell was fully entitled to credit for time already served on the original sentence which had been set aside by the court.

He had served three years and some months on that sentence which had been backdated to January 23, 2011, and the sentence was structured to reflect that.

Counsel for the DPP, Michael Bowman, said McDonnell had 88 previous convictions at the time of sentencing. However, that position had "advanced considerably" in the intervening period and he now had 111.

hijacking

Mr Bowman had submitted that the sentencing judge erred in suspending 50pc of McDonnell's sentence. The only basis on which 50pc was suspended was McDonnell's relative youth, Mr Bowman said. He was 21 at the time of the offence.

Notwithstanding his youth, Mr Bowman said McDonnell had amassed 88 previous convictions.

"Most troublingly" was that he had previously received a four-year sanction for hijacking a vehicle, the inference being that a four-year term was not enough to deter a 21-year-old.

Mr Bowman said McDonnell displayed a gratuitous level of violence in the offence. The firearm was used to convey fear and was used to whip or assault the injured party. It was used to the "maximum effect," he said.

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