A man who repeatedly stabbed his partner with a knife, leaving her hospitalised for three weeks, will face a year longer in jail after the Court of Appeal found that his original 33-month term was too lenient.
Keith Malone (40), of Barnashrone, Mountmellick, Co Laois, was charged with assault causing harm and production of an article at Athy, Co Kildare on January 6th, 2019.
On that date, he stabbed his partner four times with a knife, causing injuries including a damaged liver, a collapsed lung, a broken rib, and a gash to her elbow.
Malone pleaded guilty to both charges.
On January 19th, 2022, he was sentenced at Naas Circuit Court to three years' imprisonment with the last three months suspended for a period of 12 months.
On Thursday, the State successfully argued that the original sentence was unduly lenient, and Malone's sentence was increased to four years with the final three months suspended.
Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Thomas O'Malley SC, submitted that although the headline sentence of five years set by the sentencing judge was justified and the accused was entitled to mitigation, the ultimate sentence handed down was unduly lenient considering the gravity of the offence.
Mr O'Malley said the offence was at the top end of the scale of assault causing harm, as the victim had been stabbed four times with a knife and sustained internal injuries, which necessitated her staying in hospital for three weeks.
Defence counsel, Kathleen Leader SC, had said her client had entered an early guilty plea, which lessened the administrative burden of the case.
"There was never a trial date set, so there was never the question of people preparing themselves for trial," she said.
Ms Leader said that the trial judge had placed the offence at the higher end of the scale and set a headline sentence of five years, but the judge then took into consideration her client's early guilty plea.
On Thursday at the three-judge Court of Appeal, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said the court would quash the original sentence.
Ms Justice Donnelly said the aggravating factors in the case included the breach of trust in the offending, the production of a weapon and the high level of intoxication involved. She added that the victim should not have to be fearful in her own home.
Ms Justice Donnelly said the trial judge had taken into account the accused's remorse, cooperation with services and guilty plea and had discounted 20 months from an original 60-month sentence in mitigation.
The final three months of the eventual three-year sentence was suspended by trial judge Ms Mary O'Malley Costello to allow for rehabilitation.
Ms Justice Donnelly said there was "no doubt" that the offending was at the "highest end of the higher range" when a headline sentence of five years was identified.
The judge said that while the guilty plea had been accepted as an early one, it had not been offered at the earliest opportunity.
Ms Justice Donnelly said Malone had already served a prison sentence for assault and therefore could not avail of mitigation regarding previous good character at the time of his sentencing.
Ms Justice Donnelly said a total of "45 per cent" had been taken off the headline sentence of five years.
The judge said the Court of Appeal would set aside the 33-month sentence as "unduly lenient" and re-sentence Malone.
Ms Justice Donnelly then identified five years as the correct headline sentence for offences of the "utmost gravity" and discounted a year of that in mitigation before suspending the final three months for two years.
At the appeal hearing, Mr O'Mally said Malone was "entitled to a certain percentage of mitigation, but 25 per cent would be more appropriate rather than 40 per cent".
"If the headline sentence was 60 months, was a reduction of one third entitled? I would say no. The going rate for a plea is 10-30 per cent. In this case, there was not any justification for setting the reduction at the highest rate," Mr O'Malley said.
Ms Leader had argued it was to Malone's credit that he brought the victim to a neighbour's house after the attack and called an ambulance, admitting he had stabbed her.
She said Malone had since engaged with the probation service and the domestic abuse MEND programme.
She said the victim was not put through a trial, and Malone had done a significant amount of work in custody, having undertaken two levels of a domestic violence course and anger management.