The Court of Appeal quashed a one-year consecutive sentence imposed on a Tipperary man for driving off without paying for €20 worth of petrol.
Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said the Court of Appeal could not agree with Judge Brian O’Callaghan’s description of it as “one of those horrible thefts.”
Ms Justice Donnelly said was that instead of a sentence of two and a half years with 18 months sentence – and this one year of imprisonment made consecutive to another sentence – the Court of Appeal’s decision was to imposed a three-month sentence for the petrol theft and to make it concurrent with a two-year sentence imposed on the same defendant for a robbery.
That robbery was described by the sentencing judge at Cork Circuit Criminal Court as brazen. It occurred at a shop in Newmarket where the defendant elbowed a 77-year-old shopkeeper out of his way in order to carry out his crime.
Defence barrister Emmet Boyle appealed the severity of the consecutive year for the petrol theft, submitting that it was disproportionate.
John Donoghue, 24, of 18 Park View, Templemore, County Tipperary, pleaded guilty to what the judge described as a very serious and brazen offence. He stole €66 worth of cigarettes and tobacco and €40 in cash.
Judge O’Callaghan said: “This lady does not wish to engage with the process (in terms of preparing a victim impact statement). A 77-year-old retired lady running a shop, it is her hobby, it is her way of meeting people. The last thing she wants is to meet people like you.
“Thankfully she did not fall or suffer and serious injury. Having carried out your activities you ran out of the shop.
“It is no compliment to you that you were undisguised, that you did this openly. It just goes to show how brazen you are with people minding their own business and running a little business.
“The cash and cigarettes may not be much to you but it may well be to someone like Ms Cahill who is now left to worry if another young man is going to behave like you in her shop in the future.
“You planned what you were going to do before you went in. The harm to that lady is serious and grievous. Detective Sergeant Sean Buckley said: “On October 14, 2017, at Cahill’s shop in Newmarket at 1.45 pm in the day, the injured party, Catherine Cahill (77) was sitting behind the counter. He asked for Amberley tobacco and he took out his wallet. Ms Cahill noticed that he had no money in it and she became a bit suspicious.
“He then asked for 60 Benson cigarettes. He came behind the counter on the pretext of enquiring about a curry sauce.”
At this stage, he paid 40 cents for some sweets and enquired about Panadol and tried to draw the shopkeeper out from behind the counter to show him where the tablets were.
“She held her position. He returned behind the counter and grabbed the cigarettes and tobacco. He opened the drawer but there was no cash in it. She made efforts to stop him. He drove his elbow back to fend her off, knocking her back. She was not injured. She was a bit sore.
The 77-year-old did not wish to make a victim impact statement but she said to the detective: “I did not care what he took once he did not harm me or my sister.”
The detective added: “She is the owner of the shop. She runs it more for interest than for financial gain.”
Mr Boyle BL said at the sentencing hearing: “He is disgusted by his actions. The incredible part of it is that he used the proceeds of crime to buy food. He was at a low ebb due to addiction. Heroin caught up with him very quickly from 2016.”