Accountant jailed in case of “extreme domestic violence” faces more time behind bars

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Seán McCárthaigh

A Co Meath accountant who stabbed his then partner with a knife in a case of “extreme domestic violence” faces further time behind bars after the Court of Appeal ruled that an original jail sentence of 12 months imposed was unduly lenient.

Sidney Sutton (43) of Brindley Park Square, Ashbourne, Co Meath, who has already served a one-year jail sentence, was ordered by the Court of Appeal to return to prison for a further 16 months.

Sutton, an accountant and father of two, was sentenced to two years in jail with the final 12 months suspended at Trim Circuit Criminal Court in July 2019 after a jury had convicted him on four counts of assault, one count of assault causing harm and one count of producing a knife capable of inflicting serious injury following a trial in 2017.

The offences occurred in the early hours of February 6, 2016 as Sutton and his partner, Edele Aherne, returned to their home after attending a wedding in Slane, Co Meath on the previous day.

Sutton had pleaded not guilty to all charges and accused Ms Aherne of assaulting him and inflicting her own injuries through self-harm.

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The court heard Sutton had become aggressive in a taxi on the way home by pushing his partner in the head and also shoving her head against a wall after getting out of the vehicle.

On entering their home, Sutton punched Ms Aherne in the face and followed her into the bathroom where he continued to punch and kick her, dragged her to the floor as well as stamping on her legs.

He subsequently returned to the bathroom with a knife and stabbed Ms Aherne in her leg and shoulder.

During the attack, Ms Aherne suffered a black eye, lacerations to her right eye and right calf as well as a number of puncture wounds to her legs and arms.

Allowing the appeal on grounds of undue leniency by the DPP, Mr Justice John Edwards, presiding, with Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said the sentencing judge, Judge Martina Baxter had erred by setting a headline sentence of three years which was “substantially outside the norm”.

Mr Justice Edwards said it had been compounded by the “unjustified” decision to further suspend 12 months of the actual two-year jail sentence imposed on Sutton.

He said the headline sentence could not reasonably have been less than four years given the “egregious” nature of the offences, particularly the stabbing incident which he described as “the culmination of a prolonged incident involving extreme domestic violence.”

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Mr Justice Edwards said the Court of Appeal rejected any suggestions by Sutton’s counsel that his offending was less culpable because both parties had consumed large quantities of alcohol.

He said the message must go out that assaults involving domestic violence in the family home were arguably more serious than assaults on strangers outside a domestic setting.

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