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Man caught handling stolen power tools at South East market loses appeal over length of suspended sentence

Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Ruaidhrí Giblin

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Man caught handling stolen power tools at South East market loses appeal over length of suspended sentence

Dublin man caught handling stolen power tools at South East market loses appeal over length of suspended sentence

A man caught handling stolen power tools and two “high-quality bicycles” has lost an appeal over the length of his suspended sentence. 

Michael Collins, with a recent bail address at Mellows Park, in Finglas, Dublin 11, pleaded guilty to three counts of handling stolen property at a market in Enniscorthy, County Wexford, on February 1, 2015. The stolen power tools were worth almost €7,000 and the two high-quality bicycles were worth just under €2,000.

The court heard that the owner of the items reported a burglary a couple of days previously. 

He phoned Gardaí on a Sunday morning to say that he had travelled to a market in Enniscorthy where he saw a number of tools that were stolen which belonged to him. He said he was able to recognise the tools because he had made extension cords with yellow cables and these yellow cables were still recognisable. 

Collins was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment with the final four months suspended for a period of five years by Judge Barry Hickson, following a District Court appeal in the South East of the country on December 9, 2016. 

Judge Hickson said he was satisfied Collins, an unemployed father-of-two adult children, was a “significant player in the off-loading of stolen property”.

The suspended sentence meant that if Collins got into any trouble in the five year period, he would likely be required to serve the final four months of the sentence. 

His lawyers sought a judicial review of the sentence on grounds that length of the suspended sentence - for a period of five years - was outside the powers of the Circuit Court judge. They argued that the suspended sentence hanging over their client’s head was 15 times the length of the sentence itself and was disproportionate.

The High Court refused the reliefs sought by Collins’ lawyers and the Court of Appeal agreed with that decision on Tuesday. 

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy said there was no provision for a maximum suspended sentence. She said the High Court was correct to conclude that, while the District Court may not impose a sentence exceeding two years, there was no limit on how long a sentence may be suspended.

Furthermore, Ms Justice Kennedy said the sentencing judge "undoubtedly had reasons for suspending the sentence for the period he did". She said concerns were expressed about Collins' moderate risk of reoffending and that "receipt of stolen property was a huge temptation for him".

Ms Justice Kennedy said she was satisfied that the penalty imposed on Collins was proportionate. She said there was no reason why the operational period of a suspended sentence cannot be greater than the custodial term. The decision was not arbitrary but based on evidence. She said it was ultimately up to the discretion of a trial judge. 

Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said they agreed with their colleague's decision.