Gangs of burglars who target vulnerable in rural areas face 14 years in jail

Gangs of repeat burglars who target the vulnerable in rural areas could face up to 14 years in prison, the Court of Appeal has indicated.

Yesterday the court increased sentences handed down to two cousins, Michael Casey and David Casey, for a “fatal burglary” at the home of a 62-year-old after finding that their original three-and-a-half-year jail terms were too lenient.

During the hearing it was referenced that, earlier this year, the DPP asked the Court of Appeal to set guidelines or sentencing parameters for the offence of burglary.

Counsel for the DPP, Thomas O’Malley, submitted a number of factors that would put a burglary into the mid-range and upper end of the mid-range category. Those were:

  • Planning and premeditation;
  • Two or more participants acting together;
  • The targeting of residential properties, especially in rural areas;
  • The targeting of residential property because the occupant was known to be vulnerable due to age, disability or some other factor;
  • The taking of property which had a high monetary value or high sentimental value.

The DPP also identified factors that would tend to place a burglary in the most serious category including ransacking of a home; entering a home during the night knowing the occupant to be alone; the use or threat of violence; the cause of significant injury, whether physical or psychological, or serious trauma.

To that list, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the Court of Appeal would add the presence of relevant previous convictions as an aggravating factor.

Furthermore, a confrontation with an occupant of the dwelling would be also an aggravating factor. The more aggressive the confrontation the greater the aggravation.

He said the presence of a number of these factors would place the offence in the middle range “at least” and usually above the mid-point in that range while a considerable number of the factors or, if individual factors were present in a particularly grave form, would raise the offence to the highest category.

Mr Justice Birmingham, in a judgment with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the Court of Appeal would suggest mid-range offences to merit sentences (pre-mitigation) in the range of four to nine years and at the highest end, sentences (pre-mitigation) of nine to 14 years.

“While a consistency of approach to sentencing is highly desirable, it is not to be expected that there will be a uniformity in terms of the actual sentences that are imposed,” he said.

“There are just too many variables in terms of the circumstances of individual offences, but even more so in terms of the circumstances of individual offenders, for that to happen. Again, the court recognises that there is no clear blue water between the ranges.”

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