No extra jail for trying to stab garda with syringe

A woman with “an astronomical” amount of previous convictions will not face extra jail time for trying to stab a garda with a syringe despite a prosecution appeal.

Donna Hutch, aged 42, with an address in north inner-city Dublin, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to production of a syringe in the city on May 15, 2015.

She was sentenced to 12 months jail by Judge Martin Nolan on June 18, 2015.

The Court of Appeal refused to review Hutch’s sentence yesterday following an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.

Counsel for the DPP, Gerardine Small BL, told the court that Hutch had “an astronomical” amount of previous convictions — 313 in all — and the sentence did not reflect the personal circumstances of the offender.

Mr Justice George Birmingham said the circumstances of the offence were “highly unusual”.

Garda John O’Donovan had seen Hutch shouting and falling on Amiens St. He saw her again at the rails of the Custom House and, as he approached her, he could see she had a syringe needle clenched in her right hand with blood visible.

As Gda O’Donovan went to speak with her, Hutch struck out with her right hand, trying to stab him. A member of the public, who happened to be a member of the Simon Community, intervened.

Eventually, she dropped the syringe and Gda O’Donovan realised there was no barrel attached to it.

At this point, Hutch stretched into her trousers, took someting out and swallowed it. It later emerged that this was the barrel.

Hutch accepted what had happened and said she was “out of it”. She was extremely apologetic and thanked the garda for having sought to help her.

Mr Justice Birmingham said she had not gone out with an intention to harm anyone. The evidence was that she had an established practice of telling gardaí who stopped her whether she had a syrine on her or not “lest the garda be injured”.

The mother of two had 313 previous convictions, including 138 for theft, 44 for handling, 81 for larceny, nine section 2 assaults, and one section 3 assault. She had one previous conviction for producing a syringe in threatening circumstances.

At the time of sentence, she seemed to be doing well in the Dóchas Centre and her methadone dosage had been reduced.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the sentence was a lenient one and one might react with disbelief upon hearing that an individual with more than 300 previous convictions received a 12 month sentence for attempting to “stab a garda”.

However, closer examination of the judge’s approach shows he recognised this was a very unusual case and he sought to craft an appropriate sentence, as had been submitted by Hutch’s barrister, Pieter Le Vert BL.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court did not see any error in principle and so refused the DPP’s application.


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