Limerick criminal Brian Collopy has had his eight-year sentence for witness intimidation reduced by two years by the Court of Criminal Appeal.
The three-judge court this afternoon ruled that Judge Carrol Moran fell in to error by jailing Brian Collopy (aged 40) for eight years for making the shape of a gun at a witness in another criminal case and telling him that he was “going to get it now”.
Collopy, with a last address at Ballysimon Road, Limerick, had pleaded not guilty at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court to intimidating or putting in fear Mr Willie Moran, with the intention of causing the course of justice to be obstructed, perverted or interfered with at Island Road, Limerick on June 9, 2010.
The court heard that Collopy was the front seat passenger in a car driving on Island Road, and when Mr Moran passed-by in his own car the father-of-four made the shape of a gun, giving the victim fright.
Shortly afterwards Collopy told Mr Moran: “Willy, you’re going to get it now”.
Presiding judge Mr Justice John McMenamin said the appeal court found that Judge Moran took in to account extraneous matters that occurred after Collopy was in court as an aggravating factor when passing sentence.
Counsel for Collopy, Mr Hugh Hartnett SC, had submitted that the judge regarded a later attempt by others to induce Mr Moran to go to a solicitor’s office and withdraw his statement as an aggravating factor in the case.
Mr Justice McMenamin said that the trial judge fell in to error as it could not be said that this act or any other ancillary act which led Mr Moran to go to the solicitor’s office was a result of the actions of the accused.
However, he said the court noted that sentence was passed at the end of a “long, arduous trial”.
Mr Justice McMenamin said the fact that no weapon was used and that the offence was not a “night-time visit” and involved no subterfuge could be counted as mitigating factors in the case.
He said the court also noted that a number of Collopy’s 21 previous convictions were for “relatively minor” matters and that he suffered from a life-long cardiac issue.
However, in aggravation he said the Oireachtas had marked the seriousness of the offence by legislating for a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Mr Justice McMenamin said the trial judge was “entirely correct” in his characterisation of the offence as an attack on the administration of justice that could not be tolerated as it completely undermined the administration of the courts and the justice system.
He said that, having regard to the seriousness of the offence and both the mitigating and aggravating factors in the case, the court believed the sentence should lie on the mid-range of seriousness and would impose a sentence of six years, backdated to June 30, 2010.