A man who had his murder conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal but admitted to helping the actual murderer by trying to set fire to the deceased, has been released from prison after serving seven years in custody.
Matthew Cummins (27) was aged 19 when he entered through a window of the house of Thomas 'Toddy' Dooley in the early hours of the morning on February 12th, 2014 with two friends, James Davy and Sean Davy.
Mr Dooley was used to having young visitors at irregular hours and sat and drank with the intruders before Sean Davy struck Mr Dooley eight times over the head with a baseball bat. Mr Dooley was described during the trial as a "defenceless" elderly man who had done nothing to provoke the attack.
Cummins and James Davy were initially convicted of murder, but their convictions were overturned when the Court of Appeal found there was no evidence that the two were involved in a joint enterprise with Sean Davy to murder Mr Dooley. The court instead substituted their murder convictions with convictions for impeding the apprehension of Sean Davy.
Cummins has admitted that he was responsible for the burn marks that were found on Mr Dooley's legs and the armchair in which he was sitting. He had tried to set fire to the body to destroy evidence.
On Thursday Mr Justice Michael White told Cummins that he was going to give him a second chance. He sentenced him to nine years in prison with the final two suspended, with the sentence to run consecutively with a two-year term Cummins received in 2014 for arson. Cummins has been in custody since 2014 and is now eligible for release.
Mr Justice White said Cummins's behaviour in prison has been "exemplary" but added that he is "still at high risk of reoffending" due to his possible drug and alcohol addiction. He warned him not to offend again and added: "You have seen prisoners leave and come back, so you know what recidivism is. You have an opportunity now to lead a life away from crime, so take it."
Caroline Biggs SC for Cummins had earlier told Mr Justice Michael White that her client was "wrongly convicted of the most heinous crime known to Irish law" and had spent years in prison believing he would serve a life sentence.
He had, she said, used his time in prison constructively and was an "exemplary" prisoner who would leave custody with skills he did not possess when he entered. She asked the judge to consider that he was just 19 when the offence happened and had a troubled history from a young age.
He has shown genuine remorse, she said, and did not consider the Court of Appeal decision a personal victory because he understands the suffering of the Dooley family.
James Davy (30), of Thornhill Meadows, Celbridge, Co Kildare and Cummins, of Churchview Heights, Edenderry, Co Offaly were in the room when Mr Dooley was murdered, but the Court of Appeal found that there was no evidence they were involved in a joint enterprise with Sean Davy to murder Mr Dooley.
The three-judge court found instead that they were guilty of a "reprehensible" attempt to cover up what had happened by burning the body and disposing of the weapon.
James Davy was released from custody two weeks ago having served his full prison term. Mr Justice White considered giving Cummins a longer sentence due to his conviction for arson and other offences committed after the offence relating to Mr Dooley. Ms Biggs said Cummins had engaged in "binge behaviour" after the trauma of witnessing Mr Dooley's murder.
Sean Davy (26) of Clonmullen Drive, Edenderry has failed in a bid to have his murder conviction overturned and is serving a life sentence.