Headline sentence for making a threat to kill was excessive

Hannah Godfrey BL, 26 June 2020 (© Decisis)

June 29, 2020

Director of Public Prosecutions v Coss [2020] IECA 161 


Judgment of Kennedy J, delivered 8 June 2020:

Court of Appeal quashes sentence and substitutes more lenient sentence for offences arising out of one incident, finding that the headline sentence for making a threat to kill was excessive in all the circumstances where the threat was not of the most egregious kind, notwithstanding that the appellant had previous relevant convictions and was on bail when the offences occurred.

Offences: assault causing harm contrary to s. 3 and threatening to kill contrary to s. 5 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 and production of an article capable of inflicting serious injury contrary to s 11 of the Firearms and Offence Weapons Act 1990

Original sentence: four years and six months with six months suspended (appeals of sentences for District Court offences also before the sentencing court and these were suspended in full applying the principle of totality)

Appeal by: defence, on the ground that headline sentence nominated for the offence of making a threat to kill was excessive

Outcome: new sentence of four years with six months suspended (overall sentence would have been three years, was it not for the fact that the District Court sentences should properly have been made consecutive to this sentence)


Quotation from judgment (courtesy of the Courts Service of Ireland):

'This Court’s hands are tied insofar as the District Court appeals are concerned. The judge suspended the entirety of those sentences,which sentences ought to have been imposed on a consecutive basis. However, while the judge undoubtedly sought to consider the totality principle in suspending the sentences imposed in the District Court, we do not believe that he ought to have done so,but perhaps of greater concern is the fact that the offences before the Circuit Court were committed first in time and therefore s. 11 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984 mandated that the sentences in respect of the District Court matters should have been consecutive to the sentences imposed in respect of the Circuit Court matters. By not doing so the judge did not give effect to s.11 of the Criminal Justice Act 1984. While we cannot interfere with the sentences imposed on the District Court matters, this is a circumstance relevant to our consideration of the severity of the sentence imposed.'


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