Notorious armed robber Frank Ward, who received two life sentences for the shooting of publican Charlie Chawke during a robbery, has succeeded in having his sentence reduced to 20 years on appeal.
The Court of Criminal Appeal today found there had been an error in principle in the imposition of two concurrent life sentences on the 58-year-old for shooting and robbing Mr Chawke in the car park of the Goat Grill, Goatstown on October 6th, 2003.
Ward, a father of three with an address at Knockmore Avenue, Tallaght, had pleaded guilty to five charges relating to assault causing serious harm and possession of a firearm.
During the robbery Mr Chawke tried to seize the pump-action shotgun carried by Ward but fell and was shot in the leg.
Ward, who robbed Mr Chawke of almost €50,000, approached his victim and discharged the weapon from a range of six to 12 inches, telling him: “I will sort you out”.
Mr Chawke’s right leg had to be amputated above the knee after the attack.
In 1981, Ward was jailed for 12 years by the Special Criminal Court for his part in an armed robbery at the Bank of Ireland in Stillorgan, during which two gardaí were shot and injured.
Fifteen years later, Ward was again jailed for armed robbery; receiving an 11-year sentence for the possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life. He shot Mr Chawke just four months after his release from prison for this offence.
Presiding judge Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan said that the court found there had been an element of preventative sentencing in the decision of Judge Pat McCartan to impose a life tariff on Ward.
He said that Judge McCarten’s remark that the imposition of a life sentence was “simply to ensure” Ward would not be released from prison until the authorities were satisfied he no longer posed a threat to the community had caused the court some disquiet.
Mr Justice Finnegan, sitting with Mr Justice Michael Hanna and Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe, said the court determined that Ward’s offending warranted a “most serious” but “determinative” sentence and that the appropriate prison term was one of 20 years.
Ward, who represented himself at this morning’s hearing, had argued that the sentence imposed offered him no certainty as to when he would be released and made it clear that even upon his release he would remain on license and could be taken back to prison at any time.
Counsel for the State, Mr Paddy McCarthy SC, told the court that Judge McCartan was entitled to impose the maximum sentence as Ward was a career criminal who had perpetrated a well-organised crime during which a man lost his leg in violent circumstances.