Tipperary burglar who made threat to kill loses appeal against severity of prison sentences

A man with 28 previous convictions for burglary has lost an appeal against the severity of two prison sentences for burglaries which amount to a nine-year jail term.  

Don Duggan (30) with an address at Ballinderry Park, Mayfield, Cork had pleaded guilty to burglary of home in Tipperary and making a threat to kill on December 23, 2015. He was sentenced at Clonmel Circuit Criminal Court to ten years imprisonment with the final four suspended by Judge Thomas Teehan on May 11, 2016. 

He also pleaded guilty to a number of burglaries committed between August 18 and 24, 2015. He was given a six year sentence with the final three suspended, made consecutive to the above sentence, again by Judge Teehan, while sitting at Nenagh Circuit Criminal Court, on June 17, 2016. 

Duggan lost an appeal against both sentences on Thursday with the Court of Appeal holding that both sentences were appropriate. 

Giving judgment in the three-judge court, Mr Justice John Hedigan said the injured party for the Clonmel offence had left her home in order to go and assist a friend in cleaning her house leaving her 10-year-old son at home as the only occupant. 

Her son heard the sounds of somebody trying to break in and phoned his mother, telling her “a burglar is trying to break in”. 

His mother was terrified by this call and immediately proceeded back towards her house having alerted gardai. When she arrived she was confronted by Duggan who was carrying some of her property. She saw her son’s mobile phone on the floor and was overcome with panic and fear that her son may have been harmed. She grabbed at Duggan and wouldn’t let him go demanding to know where her son was. 

Duggan then threatened her by saying he would shoot her. He managed to free himself and escaped in his car which had been parked outside. According to the victim, he drove across the lawn and through the gate “like a maniac”. 

The gardai arrived and some ten minutes later the woman realised her son had in facts escaped through a window in his pyjamas and had gone to a neighbour’s house. 

Duggan was identified on CCTV and arrested. he admitted to everyting. He also admitted to being a heroin addict and it was accepted that most of his criminal conviction were caused by that habit. 

In respect of the Nenagh sentence, Duggan had ended one house and stolen property worth in the region of €1500. He also entered two separate unoccupied buildings and left without stealing anything. 

Finally, he opened an unlocked car and sole cash in the sum of €6. Upon being questioned by gardai he admitted everything and cooperated fully the investigation. 

Mr Justice Hedigan said Duggan had 115 previous convictions including 28 for burglary, 13 for theft, four for robbery with violence, these last four having been committed abroad. 

Duggan’s lawyers submitted that the cumulative sentence was wrong in law and that consecutive sentences should not have been imposed. It was submitted that the cumulative nine year sentence was excessively harsh. 

Mr Justice Hedigan said the Court of Appeal did not believe the Clonmel sentence was outside the range available to the Circuit Court judge. 

“Bearing in mind the traumatic invasion of the victim’s home, the fact that she was actually physically fighting with (Duggan) in the hall of her own home, that she feared for the life of her 10-year-old son and that she was threatened she would be shot and was given good reason to believe that threat; and bearing in mind the truly dreadful record of previous convictions it is only too clear that the sentence was an appropriate one”. 

In relation to the Nenagh offences, the Circuit Court judge had stated that the six years sentence would have been higher if he did not have to consider the principle of totality. 

Mr Justice Hedigan said that, while allowing for the grave nature of the offence, the decision to suspend 50% of the sentence was “appropriate”. 

He said the six years took account of the totality principle while the 50% suspension gave fair recognition of the mitigation identified. 

Mr Justice Hedigan, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, said “no error of principle can be found here”. 

He said the sentence imposed was within the range available, full account was taken of the mitigating factors and it was within the sentencing judge’s discretion to make the sentences consecutive. The appeal was therefore dismissed. 

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