11 Aug 2022

Serial burglar has sentence increased by Court of Appeal

Serial burglar has sentence increased by Court of Appeal

A burglar who tried to break into a house while the homeowner held the door shut has had his three-and-a-half-year sentence increased by the Court of Appeal.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had argued before the three-judge court that the sentence was too lenient. Passing judgement on Friday, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy agreed and increased the sentence to four and a half years.

Michael Cawley was 16 years old when he and two other men tried to push their way into a house on Brewery Road, Stillorgan, Dublin in February 2014. The couple who lived there saw the men approaching and told their child to hide in his bedroom. The mother sounded a panic alarm and called gardai, while her husband held the door shut as Cawley tried to jimmy it open with a screwdriver.

After failing to get into the house Cawley (23) broke into a home on Wilson Road in nearby Mount Merrion. He stole €5,000 worth of property including jewellery, a Playstation games console and 600 cigarettes.

He also stole a BMW from the driveway. The car was later found close to Cawley's home in a halting site at Daltree Place, Ballycullen. Gardai found Cawley's fingerprints in the car and when they searched his home they found the games console. After he was charged Cawley absconded to the UK where he picked up charges for a burglary in 2016.

On his return to Ireland he was arrested and later pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to attempted burglary at Woodford, Brewery Road, Stillorgan, on February 28th 2014. He also pleaded guilty to burglary on the same date.

He has 29 previous convictions including for burglary, trespass and dangerous driving.

At a sentence hearing in 2020 Judge Pauline Codd said that the earlier attack was a terrifying ordeal for the homeowners, whose son was forced to lock himself in his bedroom. She said the family now feel unsafe and have turned their house into a type of fortress.

Judge Codd set a headline sentence of six years imprisonment but reduced it to three and a half years after taking into consideration Cawley’s youth at the time, his drug addiction issues and his difficult childhood.

The court heard that Cawley’s mother died when he was aged 12. He left school and started hanging around with local lads and taking drugs. His father had a stroke soon afterwards and Cawley had to care for him. Judge Codd noted that he was under older “pro-criminal” influences at the time and that nobody came for him while he was being held in custody.

Grainne O'Neill SC for the DPP argued before the three-judge Court of Appeal that the headline sentence of eight years set by Judge Codd was too low. She said the judge had given too little weight to the aggravating factors, including the degree of planning, the targeting of homes late in the evening and the confrontation with one homeowner. When trying to get into the house on Brewery Road, counsel said, Cawley caused damage to the door that cost e3,000 to repair. Ms O'Neill also drew attention to Cawley's flight to the UK where he committed a further burglary offence. 

Mr Justice McCarthy said the aggravating factors put the attempted burglary at the higher end of the middle range of offending and therefore an eight-year headline sentence would have been appropriate. He said the only real mitigating factor was Cawley's young age at the time of the offence and his potential for rehabilitation. He noted that given Cawley's approach to proceedings not much credit could be given for that. After considering mitigation the court imposed a sentence of four years and six months with no portion suspended.

Mr Justice McCarthy sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy.

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