A robber has lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence despite arguments from his lawyers that a judge improperly sought to make an example of him due to the perceived problem of violent crimes in a Tipperary town.
Wayne O’Dwyer (30), with a last address at Tower Court in Wexford town, pleaded guilty to robbery at the Eurogiant store, Main Street, Carrick-on-Suir, on March 31, 2016.
Clonmel Circuit Criminal Court heard that O’Dwyer threatened to slit the throat of a female shop assistant before making off with €250 and the till.
He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with the final three years suspended by Judge Thomas Teehan on December 15, 2017, which was upheld by the Court of Appeal on Monday.
Counsel for O’Dwyer, William Bulman BL, submitted that the sentencing judge imposed a sentence that sought to make an example of his client due to what the judge called "the growing number of violent crimes occurring in Carrick on Suir".
Mr Bulman submitted that the judge perceived crimes violence in the town as being “endemic” and improperly imposed an “exemplary” sentence on O’Dwyer for general deterrence purposes.
However, giving judgment in the Court of Appeal, Mr Justice John Edwards said the three-judge court did not agree with the suggestion that O’Dwyer’s sentence was disproportionally imposed for deterrent purposes.
He said a sentencing judge is entitled to have regard to the objectives of sentencing - retribution, general and specific deterrence - as well as the need for rehabilitation of the offender. It was for a sentencing judge to decide which of these objectives required prioritisation, Mr Justice Edwards held.
He said the judge in this case focused on the need for general deterrence because of the perceived problem of violent crimes in Carrick-on-Suir, and he was entitled to do so. He would not have been entitled to impose a disproportionate sentence for deterrence purposes, but he did not do that, the judge said.
Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the court was satisfied that O’Dwyer’s sentence was not disproportionate.
Given the seriousness of the offence, he said a seven-year headline sentence was “easily” justifiable.
The appeal was therefore dismissed.
Giving background, Mr Justice Edwards said O’Dwyer entered the shop at 3.15pm on the day in question wearing a hoodie pulled down over his eyes. He walked towards the female shop assistant and ordered her to “open the fucking till”.
He told her to open the till again and said: “I’ve a gun in my pocket. If you don’t open it, I’ll shoot you." He did not have a gun but the shop assistant was not to know this.
He threatened he would slit her throat, but she maintained her composure, the judge said. She managed to get to and press the panic button. Other staff immediately came onto the shop floor to assist her.
O’Dwyer physically grabbed the till but lost his grip and it fell to the ground. He picked it up and left the premises before being arrested at a nearby house.
The till, along with €250 cash was recovered by gardaí.
In a brief victim impact statement, the shop assistant described being terrified, thinking O’Dwyer was going to seriously injure her. She wondered if she would ever see her children again and has been nervous ever since of people entering the shop wearing hoodies.
Mr Justice Edwards said O’Dwyer was a trained blocklayer but was unemployed at sentence. He had a longstanding addition to drugs including heroin, but had recently become a father and was motivated to reengage with his rehabilitation.
The court heard he had 21 previous convictions, the majority of which were for public order offences, but one was for attempted robbery and another for theft.