Au pair tied up and imprisoned in hot press during burglary, court hears

Woman (28) managed to free herself before being dragged back and imprisoned again

An au pair who moved to Ireland to improve her English was tied up by cables from her own backpack and imprisoned in a hot press during a burglary at the home of the family she worked for, a court was told on Monday.

The South American woman disturbed two intruders on the landing of the house in Drogheda, Co Louth, when she returned to the house after her English evening classes and was locked in the cupboard.

Although the burglars piled furniture against the door to prevent her escape as they ransacked the house, the 28-year-old woman managed to free herself. But she was dragged back to the hot press a second time by her assailants who tied her up with her backpack cables and subjected her to verbal abuse during the hour-long incident which took place on April 29th, 2019.

At a hearing at Trim Circuit Criminal Court in November 2019, Stephen Daly (29) pleaded guilty to burglary and false imprisonment and stealing cash amounts of €800 and $100 and a number of personal items, including a phone, a watch and jewellery, from the au pair.

He was later sentenced to nine years for false imprisonment, with the final year suspended for 12 months, and seven years for burglary by Judge Martina Baxter, who ordered that the sentences were to run concurrently.

Length of sentence

At the Court of Appeal today, lawyers for Daly argued that the length of sentence imposed by the judge at the May 2020 hearing was too long. Séamus Clarke SC, for Daly, told the court the offences his client had been convicted of did not “appear to be particularly sophisticated at all” when compared to similar, more serious crimes such as “tiger kidnappings”.

“No weapons or cable ties were brought to the property,” he added. He said the “crux of the appeal” was that the headline sentence of 12 years identified by the Judge Baxter was too high and not enough emphasis had been placed on mitigating factors. His client, he said, had entered a guilty plea at a very early stage of proceedings and a psychological report showed Daly had suffered abuse as a young child. Kevin Segrave BL, for the Director of Public Prosecution, said the woman’s employers had been forced to install extra security measures at their home as a result of the burglary.

Although the au pair’s personal belongings were later recovered, Mr Segrave told the court that it had been Daly’s co-accused who had returned the stolen items and not the appellant, whom he described as a “heartless individual”.

Dismissing the appeal, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, sitting with Court President Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Aillen Donnelly, said Daly had 69 previous convictions and six of these had been for burglary. “We cannot identify any error in sentencing by the judge in the court below,” added Ms Justice Kennedy.