A burglar who wielded a champagne bottle when he entered his female neighbour's house in the middle of the night has had his sentence reduced by the Court of Appeal.
Jack McCarthy (24), of Ardbhaile, Mayfield, Co Cork carried out the burglary on April 11 at a house near his home in Ardbhaile. He was sentenced at Cork Circuit Court last year to four years in prison with the final year suspended for two years. President of the three-judge Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham on Friday reduced that sentence to three years with the final six months suspended.
Mr Justice Birmingham said McCarthy had entered a signed plea of guilty at the earliest opportunity in the District Court and maintained that plea when sent forward to the Circuit Court. The judge said he wants to "reiterate our view of the desirability of encouraging that practice." He said such an early guilty plea is valuable and deserves "significant weight" when sentencing judges are considering mitigating factors that might reduce an offender's sentence. In McCarthy's case, he said, the judge had correctly set a headline sentence of four years but the Court of Appeal felt that the early guilty plea warranted a greater reduction from the headline.
He also noted evidence that McCarthy, a drug addict, had shown genuine remorse and before the offence had tried to enlist in a residential rehabilitation programme but was unable to do so because of the first public health lockdown.
Justice Birmingham added: "That he recognised his need for help and was willing to seek it out was significant." Aggravating factors in the case included McCarthy's previous convictions, which include one for burglary, two for assault and two for possession of knives.
Setting out the background, Mr Justice Birmingham said three female occupants of a house in Ardbhaile heard a noise and went to their front door where they found an unknown man holding the door open. That man fled and the three women then saw their neighbour, McCarthy, at the top of the stairs coming out of a bedroom with a bottle of champagne in one hand and an unidentified implement in the other.
McCarthy did not find the bottle in the house but had brought it with him and Mr Justice Birmingham said the only reason for doing so was to use it to threaten or intimidate the female occupants of the house. He noted the level of distress the three women felt.
McCarthy was arrested later that night and gardai found on him a mobile phone belonging to one of the women. He was initially too intoxicated to be interviewed but later made full admissions and entered an early plea.