‘Excessive self-defence’ sees sentence cut

A man jailed for serious assault having stomped on his victim’s head repeatedly has had his 15-year sentence reduced to eight by the Court of Appeal.

‘Excessive self-defence’ sees sentence cut

Michael Butler, aged 33, with an address at Churchfield Terrace East, Cork, had pleaded not guilty to assault causing serious harm to Billy Barry on Roman St, Cork City, on July 25, 2010.

He was found guilty by a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin on March 2, 2012.

Butler failed in his appeal against conviction yesterday but successfully had his 15-year sentence reduced to eight by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Justice George Birmingham said it was “a very serious assault” and Mr Barry’s injuries were horrendous but this was a case of “excessive self-defence”.

The court heard that Butler had been trying to put a television into a taxi outside his niece’s dwelling on Roman Street when “a number of men armed with weapons suddenly appeared on the scene”.

Blaise O’Carroll, counsel for Butler, said his client was attacked with a knife twice but both attempts missed and struck the taxi.

Mr O’Carroll said Butler saw his mother being pushed to the ground and his girlfriend struck by some weapon. It was in that context that the attack took place, Mr O’Carroll said.

Neighbours had given very graphic evidence of a larger man, Butler, gaining the ascendancy over the smaller man, Mr O’Carroll said.

Butler was seen kicking Mr Barry on the ground and stomping on his head repeatedly.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the sentencing judge did not have sufficient regard to the surrounding circumstances. This was a case of “excessive self-defence,” he said. Had there been no question of self-defence and no question of provocation then the sentence would have been justified, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

It was a very serious incident but it wasn’t created by Butler, Mr Justice Birmingham said, and there was no reason to believe that he went out with the intention of assaulting anyone.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with president of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan and Mr Justice John Edwards, substituted Butler’s 15-year sentence with a new sentence of eight years to commence on the same date.

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