No change in five-year sentence for man who set fire to family home with four kids inside

John Kelly (51), pleaded guilty to arson of the family home at Bruhenny, Churchtown, Mallow, Co Cork on December 18, 2016 when the four children aged 11, eight, six and two were inside.

No change in five-year sentence for man who set fire to family home with four kids inside

A man who set fire to his family home while four young children were inside has lost an appeal against the severity of his five-year jail term.

John Kelly (51), pleaded guilty to arson of the family home at Bruhenny, Churchtown, Mallow, Co Cork on December 18, 2016 when the four children aged 11, eight, six and two were inside.

He was sentenced at Cork Circuit Criminal Court to seven years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin last year. The Court of Appeal upheld his sentence today.

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said Kelly had returned home for the Christmas holidays and it appears an argument took place between him and his wife.

He felt “a fool was being made of him” on her Facebook page and he wanted to confront her about an alleged affair, the judge said.

The following day, while the children were inside the house, Kelly set two fires upstairs. He went back downstairs, took his children out of the house and locked the door before setting a third fire downstairs. The home was destroyed and the family became dependent on the HSE for accommodation.

Mr Justice McCarthy said Kelly made every effort to ensure he had no further contact with his wife and family.

He pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, had no previous convictions and had, until this incident, been a good supporter for his family. There was no suggestion of any psychological or psychiatric issues.

Counsel for Kelly, Donal O’Sullivan BL, submitted that the headline sentence was too high and insufficient weight was given to the mitigating factors.

However, Mr Justice McCarthy said the 10-year headline sentence selected by the Circuit Court judge was within his margin of discretion. He said the judge balanced all relevant factors correctly and there was no error in principle.

Mr Justice McCarthy, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Máire Whelan, accordingly dismissed the appeal.

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