A husband's cooperation with Gardaí as he was arrested for attempting to bludgeon his sleeping wife to death with a hammer on her birthday entitles him to a shorter sentence, the Court of Appeal was told on Thursday.
Andrzej Benko (50) had pleaded not guilty to attempting to murder Joanna Benko at their house at Ladyswell Road, Mulhuddart, Dublin on July 5th, 2010.
But a jury found him guilty following a trial at the Central Criminal Court, and he was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment. Benko later lost an appeal against his conviction.
On Thursday, the Court of Appeal was told the sentence imposed by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy in April 2014 was “too long and disproportionate”.
Although Dean Kelly SC, for Benko, conceded the injuries inflicted by his client were horrific, he said the sentencing judge had given insufficient regard to mitigating factors and Benko’s personal circumstances when imposing the 15-year term.
Mr Kelly said his client had been “at the end of his tether with his drug-addicted wife” after finding drugs in his car and had been concerned about his toddler son’s welfare when he attacked her with the hammer as she slept.
When he was arrested, Mr Kelly said Benko told Gardaí he deserved to go to jail for what he had done; while a psychological assessment later indicated Benko was at low-risk of re-offending.
The trial judge, counsel continued, appeared not to take into account his client’s co-operation with Gardaí after his arrest. “That is wrong,” Mr Kelly said.
Dominic McGinn SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the fact proceedings in this case were still ongoing 11 years after the attack and seven years after the conviction indicated Benko has never shown any remorse for his actions.
“Mrs Benko was vulnerable, effectively defenceless and was attacked by the one person she was entitled to place an enormous amount of trust in, her husband,” Mr McGinn said.
The defendant’s not guilty plea was of “enormous significance”, the prosecution counsel noted, and “as a result (Benko) cannot be afforded any degree of credit in sentencing”.
Before reserving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham said the fact that there had been an intent to kill had placed the offence into “a very specific category”.