No extra jail time for Donna Hutch (42) over bid to stab garda

Counsel for DPP says Hutch has ‘astronomical’ amount of previous convictions - 313 in total

Garda John O’Donovan saw Donna  Hutch  at  the Custom House in Dublin and, as he approached her, he could see she had a syringe needle clenched in her  hand.  Hutch struck out with her right hand and tried to stab him, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court had heard. File photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Garda John O’Donovan saw Donna Hutch at the Custom House in Dublin and, as he approached her, he could see she had a syringe needle clenched in her hand. Hutch struck out with her right hand and tried to stab him, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court had heard. File photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

A woman with “an astronomical” amount of previous convictions will not face extra jail time for attempting to stab a garda with a syringe, despite an appeal by prosecutors.

Donna Hutch (42), with an address in north inner-city Dublin, had pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to production of a syringe in the city on May 15th, 2015.

She was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment by Judge Martin Nolan on June 18th, 2015.

‘Unduly lenient’

The Court of Appeal refused to review Hutch’s sentence today following an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions on grounds that it was “unduly lenient”.

Counsel for the DPP, Gerardine Small BL, had told the court Hutch had “an astronomical” amount of previous convictions - 313 in total - and the sentence did not reflect the personal circumstances of the offender.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the circumstances of the offence were “highly unusual”.

Garda John O’Donovan had seen Hutch shouting and falling on Amiens Street on the day. He saw her again at the rails of the Custom House and, as he approached her, he could see she had a syringe needle clenched in her right hand with blood visible.

As Garda O’Donovan went to speak to her, Hutch struck out with her right hand and tried to stab him. A member of the public who happened to be a member of the Simon Community intervened.

Eventually Hutch opened her hand, dropping the syringe, and Garda O’Donovan realised there was no barrel attached to it.

At this point, Hutch reached into her trousers, took something out and swallowed it. It later emerged this was the barrel.

Hutch accepted what had happened and said she was “out of it”. She was extremely apologetic and she thanked the garda for having sought to come to her assistance.

She had known Garda O’Donovan for more than 20 years but failed to recognise him on the day, initially thinking it was Fr Peter McVerry before thinking people were chasing her.

Crystal methamphetamine

She was hallucinating, having ingested crystal methamphetamine.

Mr Justice Birmingham said she had not gone out with an intention to harm anyone. The evidence was that she had an established practice of informing gardaí­ who stopped her about whether or not she had a syringe on her, “lest the garda be injured”.

The mother of two teenage boys had 313 previous convictions including 138 for theft, 44 for handling, 81 for larceny, nine section 2 assaults and one section 3 assault. She had one previous conviction for producing a syringe in threatening circumstances.

Mr Justice Birmingham said it appeared the great bulk of her convictions were in the nature of shoplifting, apparently to feed a drugs habit.

At the time of sentence, she appeared to be doing well in the Dóchas Centre and her methadone dosage had been reduced.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the sentence was a lenient one, and a person might react with disbelief upon hearing that an individual with more than 300 previous convictions received a 12-month sentence for attempting to “stab a garda”.

But closer examination of the judge’s approach shows he recognised this was a very unusual case and he sought to craft an appropriate sentence, as had been submitted by Hutch’s barrister, Pieter Le Vert BL.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the court did not identify any error in principle and accordingly refused the DPP’s application.