The man who was said to have “set the agenda” for the fatal beating of Dale Creighton, 20, on a footbridge in Tallaght five years ago, has had his jail term cut on appeal.
David Burke, 29, with a last address at Beechpark, Collinstown, Co Westmeath, initially stood trial for the murder of Mr Creighton along with six others but on the 15th day of their trial those charges were dropped and each accused pleaded guilty to lesser offences.
Mr Creighton was assaulted on the footbridge over the Tallaght bypass between Saint Dominic’s Road and Greenhills Road in the early hours of January 1, 2014.
He was falsely accused of stealing a mobile phone and “marched” up to a “kangaroo court” on the footbridge, where the beating continued after it was ascertained that he didn’t have the stolen phone. He died in hospital the following day, due to blunt force injury to his head and face.
David Burke and four others pleaded guilty to manslaughter and the five killers were sentenced to 10 years, with suspended periods, depending on their culpability and circumstances.
Sentencing him to 10 years imprisonment with the final two and a half years suspended, Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy held David Burke to be the “most culpable of the participants. He was the oldest. He set the agenda. He determined what was to happen.”
However, the Court of Appeal cut David Burke’s jail term by nine months today on grounds that his sentence diverged from the next most culpable participant by too much.
President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said the court would usually “baulk” at a limited intervention. But in a case involving multiple defendants, where issues of relativity and parity apply, intervention was “required”.
He said the court had some concern that conclusions about David Burke setting the agenda “may go somewhat further than is supported by the evidence”.
There was no doubt, however, that the greatest culpability rested with David Burke and another of those involved, Ross Callery, Mr Justice Birmingham said.
The Court of Appeal was also satisfied that the sentencing judge was correct to draw a distinction between David Burke and Ross Callery because of Burke’s involvement in the early stages of the incident, “as what might be described as an instigator”, and the fact Callery was five years younger.
Callery, 25, with an address of Gortlum Cottages, Brittas, Co Dublin, was jailed for six years. David Burke was given an extra 18 months, or 25% more, and was too great a divergence, the judge said.
Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, resentenced David Burke to 10 years imprisonment with the final three years and three months suspended, leaving him with a net jail term of six years and nine months.
Seven defendants appeared in court
The Central Criminal Court heard that the seven defendants, who were from Tallaght and were known to each other, had rung in the new year four hours earlier in a local nightclub, where the entrance fee included multiple free drinks. Some also took cocaine.
They were David Burke and his sister 25-year-old Aisling Burke, both with last addresses at Beechpark, Collinstown, Co Westmeath; Ross Callery; Graham Palmer, 28, with an address at Park Avenue, Portarlington, Co Laois; James Reid, 26, of Glen Aoibhinn, Gorey, Co Wexford; Jason Beresford, 25, with an address at Coill Diarmuida, Ard a’ Laoi, Castledermot, Co Kildare; and Gerard Stevens, 29, of Grosvenor Square, Rathmines in Dublin.
Aisling Burke, who pleaded guilty to violent disorder, was jailed for one year, while James Reid, who pleaded guilty to possession of a knife, was given a wholly suspended two-year sentence.
The other five, including David Burke, entered guilty pleas to manslaughter, which were accepted by the State. Only some of the 14-minute assault was caught on CCTV and gardai in Tallaght had to turn the camera back onto the bridge to capture the final four minutes.
Ms Justice Murphy imposed the same 10-year sentence on each of the five killers and suspended a portion based on their culpability and circumstances.
Ross Callery was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final four years suspended.
Graham Palmer was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final five years suspended.
Jason Beresford was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final four years suspended.
Gerard Stevens was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final seven years suspended.
Dale Creighton’s mother told the Central Criminal Court that the “torture and the fear that my son was put through that night will haunt me for the rest of my life".
It is my first thought in the morning when I wake up and my last at night when I finally fall asleep. I have nightmares about Dale on the bridge that night.
His father said he “couldn’t believe that my son was left unrecognisable in the bed, that one human being could do that to another… Every night for the last three years, I go to sleep thinking of Dale and I wake up to a nightmare.
"So much so, the stress of his death has taken a toll on my health that I have suffered three heart attacks.”