DPP appeals three-year sentence for man who inserted curtain pole in anus of mother’s partner

Assault occurred after man arrived at a property in the early hours and discovered his mother in bed with the victim

STOCK: The Courts of Criminal Justice on Parkgate St. Dublin
Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times
The Criminal Courts of Justice Exterior view

The three-year jail term handed down to a man who forced a curtain pole into the anus of his mother’s lover in a “vile, sadistic, vicious, cruel and barbaric” attack was unduly lenient, the Court of Appeal was told on Thursday.

Nathan Doherty (24), from Legan, Co Longford, attacked Derek Murphy with the broken pole in the bedroom of a house at Lisnacreeva, Colehill, Co Longford, after arriving at the property in the early hours and discovering his mother Sharon Doherty naked in bed with him.

During the assault, Doherty repeatedly hit Mr Murphy over the back with the curtain pole until it snapped in two. He then took one half of the broken pole and forced it inside Mr Murphy’s anus “at least twice” and left it there.

Mr Murphy suffered internal injuries as a result and was forced to use a colostomy bag for several months after the attack on June 3rd, 2018. He has also suffered psychological trauma.

He later told a court the pain inflicted on him by Doherty had been “excruciating” and that he thought he was going to die during the assault.

Doherty pleaded guilty to one count of intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm and one count of producing an article capable of causing serious harm and was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for the attack, with the final three years suspended for 10 years.

He was also ordered to pay his victim compensation of €30,000, with payments of €5,000 per year to be made when he has served his sentence.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has appealed the suspended portion of the sentence imposed by Judge Keenan Johnson at Mullingar Circuit Criminal Court in January 2021.

The State has appealed on the grounds that the 50 per cent reduction in the time Doherty would spend in prison represented a “substantial departure” from other sentences handed down for similar “egregious” offences.

Shane Geraghty BL, for the DPP, told the Court of Appeal that “Judge Johnson had described the assault as ‘vile, sadistic, vicious, cruel and barbaric’, and I don’t think we should depart from that”.

Mr Geraghty said rehabilitation had been a “central factor” when Judge Johnson sentenced Doherty.

The accused, however, had been a first-time offender, with a good work record, and was therefore at a low-risk of reoffending, counsel said.

He said Doherty had entered the property “uninvited and forcibly” and had even struck his own mother before assaulting Mr Doherty.

Mr Murphy, Mr Geraghty said, was then subject to a serious assault whereby an implement was forcibly inserted into his anus by Doherty.

In the circumstances, a three-year jail term was an “insufficient censure and insufficient in the context of deterrents”, Mr Geraghty said.

Desmond Dockery SC, for Doherty, told the court that his client was a “dutiful” son who had been “goaded” by his father into using the broken implement to attack Mr Murphy.

Last month, Derek Doherty (52), of Vicarstown, Ballymahon, Co Longford, was sentenced to 80 months in prison with the final 17 months suspended at Longford Circuit Criminal Court for his role in the attack.

“His father led this,” Mr Dockery said, adding that the parent had instructed his son to “do the bastard” during the 3am attack.

There were other “wide-ranging” mitigating factors in the case, counsel said, including his client’s early guilty plea which had been tendered at height of the pandemic when there had been a backlog of cases.

Referring to the assault, Mr Dockery described it as a “spontaneous incident” rather than a premeditated act.

He said Judge Johnson had been entitled to “a certain latitude” to “go that extra mile” to help a first-time offender towards rehabilitation, and asked the court not to interfere with the sentence handed down by a “very experienced and thoughtful” judge.

Judgment has been reserved.