DPP has bid to increase jail sentence for former psychiatric patient rejected

The Court of Criminal appeal has dismissed the DPP's bid to increase the 10- year prison sentence imposed on a psychiatric patient who admitted stabbing two health workers in a 'frenzied' attack at a hospital in Limerick.

The Court of Criminal appeal has today dismissed the DPP's bid to increase the 10-year prison sentence imposed on a psychiatric patient who admitted stabbing two health workers in a 'frenzied' attack at a hospital in Limerick.

Anthony McMahon of Raheen Square, Ballinacurra Weston in Limerick pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm to Dr Ananth Pullela and assault causing harm to Ms Catherine Burns at St Anne's Day Hospital on January 17, 2008.

However the DPP, who argued that a life sentence should have been imposed on McMahon, appealed against the undue leniency of the sentence imposed on him by Judge Carol Moran at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court in 2009.

This morning the Court of Criminal Appeal consisting of Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, presiding, sitting with Mrs Justice Maureen Clark and Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe dismissed the DPP's application.

The DPP had argued that the sentence imposed by Judge Moran was unduly lenient. As McMahon had attacked the two health care workers shortly after he had completed a seven-year prison sentence for killing another man in 2001 the DPP submitted that he represented "a clear danger to others".

The DPP submitted that had McMahon pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity he would have been detained at the Central Mental Hospital until he was considered safe to be released.

A similar result could and should be achieved by imposing a life sentence on McMahon, it was also submitted.

Counsel for McMahon, who was not present in court today, opposed the DDP's application and argued that the sentence should not be altered.

The sentencing process could not be used for was in effect be a preventative detention, as such detention was only permitted under the 2001 Mental Health Act.

Giving the CCA's judgment Mr Justice O'Donnell dismissed the DPP's appeal. A sentencing judge can only sentence an offender in respect of the offence, the Judge said.

The Court did not have the power to impose a sentence for a criminal offence which would allow for an open-ended detention on the grounds of anticipated future risk of harm.

The Judge added that if sentencing courts are to be given additional powers in respect of person who pose a serious risk to the public is a matter which "required the most careful review and sophisticated analysis by all the organs of Government."

The court heard that Dr Ananth Pullela, who had been treating McMahon, was lucky to survive after being stabbed eight times in the chest. As he fled the scene of the attack McMahon stabbed 64-year-old psychologist Catherine Burns in the stomach, her injuries were also life-threatening.

Following McMahon’s plea Judge Moran said the attack was 'frenzied and savage' and seemed to arise from Mr McMahon's frustration over the nature of his medical treatment.

The judge said he had to take into account the fact that the 34-year-old attacked the two care workers shortly after he had completed a seven-year prison sentence for manslaughter after killing a man in 2001 in what the court heard was a paranoid reaction.

The Judge then imposed 10 and three-year sentences to run concurrently.

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