Man given extra jail time by judge following 'vicious' Waterford stabbing

Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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A man who left his former partner’s “nose hanging off” following a vicious knife-assault, has been given extra jail time following an appeal by the Court of Appeal. 

Jamie Coughlan, 39, with an address at Larchville, Waterford city, had denied seriously assaulting his former partner, at their home on Philip Street, in the city in July 2017. 

Coughlan claimed his former partner’s injuries were “self-inflicted” and her psychiatric history was opened in court to support this story. 

He was found guilty by a jury at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court and sentenced to six years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Barry O’Kelly on March 9, 2018. 

The Director of Public Prosecutions successfully sought a review of his sentence on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”, and the Court of Appeal jailed him for six years on Monday, June 24. 

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice John Edwards said Coughlan and the injured party had been in a relationship for several years. They had an argument on the night in question and Coughlan produced a kitchen knife. 

He said Coughlan stabbed the victim repeatedly in a “frenzy” causing her several serious injuries. 

The victim sustained a number lacerations to her face, neck and arms as well as stab wounds to her breast. One stab wound left her “nose hanging off,” according to an arresting garda. There was also a small defensive type laceration on her arm. 

Mr Justice Edwards said the injured party pleaded with Coughlan to allow emergency services be called. He eventually relented to her requests for medical assistance on the basis that she would “assume responsibility” for her injuries. 

He fled the scene bringing their dog with him to ensure it wouldn’t be taken into a pound, the judge said. 

Coughlan was subsequently arrested and detained. Over the course of a number of interviews, he denied responsibility, maintaining the story that the victim’s wounds were “self-inflicted.” The victim’s difficult psychiatric history was opened in court to support this “narrative,” Mr Justice Edwards said. 

She declined to make a victim impact statement but the sentencing court received a number of medical reports. 

A trauma surgeon in Waterford described the multiple stab wounds to her face, neck, chest and breast as being consistent with a "vicious assault." The surgeon referred to the high degree of blood loss and the lowering of the victim’s blood pressure. If untreated, there had been the possibility of bleeding to death, according to the doctor. 

Another surgeon referred to a large laceration running from below the right eye and right cheek onto the nose. The 12cm wound ran through the nasal cartilage and cut the nasal septum. It required reconstruction, and left a permanent scar in a highly prominent part of the face, according to the doctor. 

At the time of the incident, there was a safety order against Coughlan for the benefit and protection of the injured party.

Coughlan had offered an apology to the victim albeit at a late stage, after the trial. 

Mr Justice Edwards said Coughlan had 24 previous convictions including several for possession of drugs, one for theft, three for robbery, three for burglary, one for production of an article in the course of a dispute and one for escaping lawful custody. He had served several substantial prison sentences in the past and was first incarcerated aged 16. 

He said Coughlan had been expelled from school for behavioural issues. He had two children and was making use of the services available to him in prison, including an anger management course. 

His mother gave evidence that she was dependent on him to a degree. 

In seeking a review of his sentence, counsel for the DPP, Conor O’Doherty BL, submitted that Coughlan had “very little going for him” in terms of mitigation. 

Mr O’Doherty said Coughlan had not taken responsibility for his actions, had failed to cooperate with the gardaí and there was a failure to offer assistance. 

He said any assertion of remorse was undermined by the way Coughlan fought the case.

Mr O’Doherty said Coughlan was only entitled to “very modest” mitigation and the Court of Appeal agreed. 

Mr Justice Edwards said the mitigating factors would have justified a discount of no more than 12 months. 

He said the actual discount provided by the sentencing judge was “excessive”, rendering the overall sentence “unduly lenient”. 

Mr Justice Edwards, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham, and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, resentenced Coughlan to six-and-a-half years imprisonment with the final six months suspended. 

The DPP did not challenge the headline sentence of seven-and-a-half years, although Mr Doherty said it was the most lenient possible view of the case. 

Coughlan was required to enter into a good behaviour bond for the suspended period and he undertook to be so bound.