Breifne O’Brien moves to appeal prison sentence for deception

Businessman says judge did not take adequate account of mitigating factors in his favour

Former businessman Breifne O’Brien has moved to appeal his prison sentence for inducing others to advance millions of euro to him for investment in bogus property deals.

The 54-year-old, with an address at Monkstown Grove, Monkstown, Co Dublin, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to 14 sample counts of making a gain or causing a loss by deception of about €8.5 million between 2003 and 2008.

He was sentenced to seven years in prison by Judge Patricia Ryan on October 8th, 2014.

O’Brien moved to appeal his sentence yesterday on grounds that the judge failed to adequately address the public interest in rehabilitating him and failed to have sufficient regard to various mitigating factors in his favour.


Guilty plea

Patrick McGrath SC, for O’Brien, said that apart from oblique references in the judge’s remarks, she did not appear to have adequately weighed various mitigating factors in O’Brien’s favour, such as his lack of previous convictions, his guilty plea, his remorse and his level of co-operation.

Nowhere in the judge’s comments was there any reference to his family circumstances and his loss of social standing, Mr McGrath said.

Submitting a document containing various newspaper reports, Mr McGrath said the “notoriety” that had been occasioned on O’Brien should have been taken into account.

O’Brien had become a “social pariah”, he said, and was portrayed as a man who represented the worst excesses of the Celtic Tiger and there was “almost a rejoicing” at his downfall.

He was referred to as the “Irish Bernie Madoff”, Mr McGrath said, which was “unprecedented” of anyone reported upon during the financial downturn. This public humiliation was a feature which ought to have been taken into account, Mr McGrath said.

Counsel further submitted that O’Brien’s attempts at restitution should have been taken into account.

O'Brien wished to draw the court's attention to an Irish Times article in May this year, Mr McGrath said, in which a certain asset was listed as hoping to achieve a higher value than had been initially believed.


Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions Kerida Naidoo SC said the facts were that €8.5 million had been “stolen” and some €420,000 returned.

Mr Naidoo said O’Brien appeared to have put in place efforts for a larger amount to be repaid but the reality was no further restitution had been made.

Mr Naidoo agreed that O’Brien had, in effect, “fallen from a great height”, as had just been submitted on his behalf, but that height was “based on money that was stolen” and once his crimes were uncovered his “lifestyle was inevitably going to collapse”.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court would reserve judgment and deliver it as soon as possible.