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David Healy (48), of Tig na Mona, Rathankar, Passage West, Co. Cork, leaving court
David Healy (48), of Tig na Mona, Rathankar, Passage West, Co. Cork, leaving court

Jail time for arsonist Healy after DPP appeal

A businessman found guilty of burning down his own commercial premises and lodging a fraudulent insurance claim will be sent to jail following an appeal by prosecutors.

David Healy, aged 48, of Tig na Mona, Rathankar, Passage West, had pleaded not guilty to arson that caused more than €200,000 worth of damage at Munster Air Compressors — of which he was a company director — at Kilbarry Cottages, Dublin Hill, Cork, on December 16, 2014.

A jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court found him guilty of arson and he subsequently pleaded guilty to a second charge of attempted deception on January 8, 2015.

After 10 weeks on remand, he was given a 10-year suspended sentence and fined €33,000 by Judge Gerard O’Brien on May 15, 2018.

However, the Court of Appeal has found Healy’s sentence “unduly lenient” on foot of an appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Giving judgment, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said the fire at the commercial premises of Munster Air Compressors was an extensive one.

It was brought under control by three units of the fire service.

The officer in charge of the fire service came to the conclusion that it was started deliberately.

There were six seats of fire, or locations where the fire started, as well as shredded paper, oil and other accelerants present, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

In relation to the attempted deception, he said the value of certain machinery was overstated to be worth €30,000, when in fact they were worth about €2,000, and the level of insurance cover had been increased in June 2014, from €50,000 to €350,000.

Mr Justice Birmingham said Healy was a businessman who had no previous convictions, save for using a mobile phone while driving.

Counsel for the DPP, Ray Boland BL, said it was a “cold-blooded business arson” which involved a significant degree of planning and premeditation.

Counsel for Healy, Seán Gillane SC, said the various aspects of the sentence were sufficiently punitive.

Mr Gillane said his client was immediately remanded in custody, after the jury verdict, and the “slamming of the cell door” on a man who had never been in prison had already achieved the desired effect.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Ms Justice Marie Baker, said a custodial sentence was “unavoidable”. While Healy pleaded guilty to attempted deception, the arson charge was fully contested.

In the Court of Appeal’s view, the sentencing judge’s approach was “unusual” and presented difficulties for resentencing. It involved custody, while on remand, a lengthy suspended sentence and a significant fine.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the court would not interfere with the fines, which had already been paid.

Healy was resentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with the final five years suspended for the arson, with credit for 10 weeks already spent in custody.

A wholly suspended three-year sentence was imposed for the attempted deception, to run concurrently with the sentence for arson.

Healy will return to the Court of Appeal on May 13, to begin serving his sentence, or net jail term of two years.