Judges extend Pearse McAuley jail term for ‘horrifying’ attack

DPP had appealed against man’s eight-year term for Christmas Eve assault on ex-wife

A man who assaulted his estranged wife for almost four hours using a steak knife while their children were in the house has had his jail term increased following an appeal by prosecutors. Pearse McAuley (50), Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, had pleaded guilty to seriously assaulting and falsely imprisoning Pauline Tully as well as other related offences at the home they previously shared at Kilnaleck, Co Cavan, on Christmas Eve 2014.

He was sentenced at Cavan Circuit Criminal Court to 12 years' imprisonment with the final four suspended by Judge John Aylmer on December 2nd, 2015. The Court of Appeal on Monday found McAuley's eight-year jail term to be "unduly lenient" following an application for review of sentence by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The three-judge court accordingly resentenced him to 12 years in prison with the final two years suspended.

Court of Appeal president Mr Justice Seán Ryan said the headline sentence of 12 years seemed “modest” in view of the “quite horrifying circumstances of his case” but the DPP had not taken issue with the headline sentence. Monica Lawlor, for the DPP, submitted that the effective sentence or jail term of eight years was too lenient.

On Christmas Eve 2014, McAuley arranged to come to his former home where Ms Tully and their two sons, aged seven and four, were present. Mr Justice Ryan said McAuley came “armed with a knife” and punched Ms Tully immediately after she opened the door. He then subjected her to a serious assault from 11am until about 3pm.


He hit her and used a steak knife to inflict multiple wounds. The fact that this happened in the presence of two young boys added an “extra dimension of brutality”, the judge said. Ms Tully later managed to get out of the house and found herself “cowering” in the car McAuley had driven there.

He followed her out and when help arrived, he was holding a rock above his head which he was going to use to break into the car in order to inflict further injury on Ms Tully. In those circumstances, McAuley may consider himself lucky that the Circuit Court considered 12 years as an appropriate starting point, Mr Justice Ryan said. The Court of Appeal did not endorse the 12-year headline sentence as an appropriate one and did not want it “to be thought of as a precedent”.

The question for the Court of Appeal, posed by the DPP, was whether the allowance of four years for mitigating factors was excessive. The answer was “yes”. It was excessive and an error in principle, Mr Justice Ryan added. He said McAuley’s guilty plea was of limited value as it might be said McAuley was “caught red-handed”.

Mr Justice Ryan, who sat with Mr Justice Alan Mahon and Mr Justice John Edwards, said all factors given their maximum weight did not warrant a one-third reduction in sentence. Allowing for the maximum the court could think of as “proper and allowable”, he said the court would suspend the final two rather than four years.

Mr McGrath said McAuley wished to extend his apology to his ex-wife, to her family who had “always been good to him” and to his own family for the “shame” he had brought on them. He was required to enter into a fresh good behaviour bond for the suspended period. When asked if he undertook to be so bound, he said he did.