Mulhuddart man sentenced to eight years in prison apologises to family of stab victim

By Alison O’Riordan

A Mulhuddart man who admitted stabbing a father-of-one three times has been sentenced to eight years with one suspended at the Central Criminal Court for his manslaughter.

In a letter read to the court by his barrister, the 25-year-old man said he will always remember the night “with deep regret and shame.” “I cannot say enough how sorry I am for this man’s death. I would give anything for that night not to have happened," he added.

Andrew Gibney, with an address at Dromheath Avenue, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15 was found not guilty of murder but guilty of the manslaughter of Gerard Burnett (28) by a jury last month. They had deliberated for seven hours and six minutes over three days.

He had pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Burnett at Castlecurragh Vale, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15 on August 21, 2012.

Sentencing Gibney today, Mr Justice Paul Butler said he accepted the jury’s verdict in the case and the finding that Gibney did not intend to kill or cause serious injury to Mr Burnett.

Gibney told gardai that he stabbed Gerard Burnett in the side three times with a knife. He went to a garda station of his own free will a week after the killing and told officers: “I was involved in the incident, the chap is dead now and I need to give him peace.”

Chief State Pathologist, Professor Marie Cassidy, said that the deceased suffered 30 knife injuries, the majority being stab wounds. She testified that the fatal injuries were six stab wounds on the right side of Mr Burnett’s chest, all of which had penetrated deeply, causing internal injuries to his right lung, heart and liver.

The prosecution’s case was that Gibney was part of a joint enterprise to murder Mr Burnett and that he was one of five men who went to the deceased’s house on the night and attacked him with knives.

The defence argued that if the evidence pointed to a reasonable possibility that Gibney intended to cause some harm to Mr Burnett short of serious harm, the appropriate verdict was manslaughter.

Outlining the facts of the case today, Mr Justice Butler said this was a very tragic case for the deceased and his family.

The judge said Mr Burnett was subjected to an entirely unprovoked attack by a group of people who were probably armed with three knives. One of that group was Gibney who admitted stabbing Mr Burnett three times, he said.

He said he respected the jury’s verdict in the case which was manslaughter. “I accept the finding that he did not intend to kill or cause serious injury,” he added.

The judge said the technical evidence established that the three stab wounds inflicted by Gibney were not fatal, were “shallower” than the other stab wounds and they were to Mr Burnett’s side.

He said while Gibney’s remorse does not help to bring Mr Burnett back, it is a very important factor.

The judge said the defendant’s remorse was “entirely credible” because of his attitude in going to gardaí, admitting all of the facts and not seeking bail.

Mr Justice Butler said that although a verdict of not guilty was open to the jury, counsel made it clear to them that he was not pushing that aspect of the case and this was on his client’s instructions.

He said the court considered the offence to be at the higher end of manslaughter because of the viciousness of the case and the joint enterprise.

The court heard that Gibney has been in custody since August 2012. Mr Justice Butler said he was aware of the practical implications of this but remission was not a matter for the court.

He said he wanted to praise Mr Gibney’s father who was clearly instrumental in helping his son go to gardaí.

Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Butler said he believed the appropriate sentence to be eight years but it was a suitable case in which to suspend part of the sentence based on the progress Gibney has made while in custody and the fact he has no previous convictions.

Mr Justice Butler then sentenced Gibney to eight years in prison with one year suspended and backdated it to when he went in to custody on August 28, 2012.

He asked that Gibney enter a bond of €100 before the prison Governor to be of good behaviour.

The five-day trial heard that Gibney told gardaí in interviews that Mr Burnett had stabbed him in the shoulder with a screwdriver four years previously but the two had made amends.

The judge said in his charge to the jury that the principle of joint enterprise was central to the case. He said where two or more persons embark on a joint enterprise, all parties to that agreement are criminally liable. But where one party goes beyond what has been tacitly agreed, then the other is not liable for the consequences of this act.

This was the second time Gibney went on trial for Mr Burnett’s murder. He was originally convicted of the 28-year old’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2014. That conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal in November last year and a retrial was ordered which took place in November.

At today’s sentence hearing, Mr Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC said his client had prepared a letter of apology to be read to the court.

In the letter, Gibney said he will always remember the night “with deep regret and shame.” He said he was very afraid after the event and told his father that he wanted to tell gardaí what had happened. “This was a very emotional time for him and I as we knew we were part of something that we never thought would ever come near our door. We were all scared that I was part of this terrible thing,” he said.

Gibney said that he fully accepts his actions on that “dreadful night”. “I will always have to live with the fact that Mr Burnett shall not see his girlfriend or family again,” he said.

He said he has thrown himself into education while in prison and he has been highly involved with the Irish Red Cross and the Samaritan’s Listeners Programme in peer support to help prisoners at risk of self-harm and suicide.

“I have matured into a young man now and once released I shall become a valued member of society to give back as much as I possibly can. I live with regret, regret, regret, the what if’s and the should have done’s. However, I know I will never be able to change my past but I can change my future,” he said.

Gibney said there was never a day that he does not think about Mr Burnett and the pain felt by his family as well as the shame he has brought to his own family.

“I cannot say enough how sorry I am for this man’s death. I would give anything for that night not to have happened," he said.

A letter from Mr Gibney’s father, Andrew Gibney Senior, was also read to the court by Mr Lideadha in which he said they were a normal working class family. He said his son Andrew was one of five children and none of his siblings were ever in trouble.

“In the lead up to that devastating night our estate was awash with tablets and drugs. Andrew was in with the wrong crowd and unfortunately we were away and had no control over the events on that night,” he said.

The court heard that Gibney told his father about his involvement on the night and said: “No way Da was that supposed to happen.” Gibney’s father said his son was devastated to find out Mr Burnett had died.

“Since Andrew has been in prison for five and a half years he has strived to make himself a better person immersing himself in various courses, studies and exams. We know Andrew will come out a better person,” he said.

The court heard that the Gibney family offered their deepest condolences to Mr Burnett’s family saying: “We know that is not much but it all that we have.”

Earlier, the court heard there would be no victim impact statement.

At today’s sentence hearing, Detective Superintendent Colm O’Malley of Blanchardstown garda station outlined the facts of the case.

He told prosecuting counsel Vincent Heneghan SC that Mr Burnett, his partner Denise Farrell and their young son had been living at Castlecurragh Vale, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15 in August 2012.

Mr Burnett and his partner were in the sitting room when the doorbell rang at 11.30pm on August 21. Ms Farrell asked him not to answer the door but he said he would.

She was behind her partner when he opened the door and she heard someone shout “Are you Ger Burnett?” Her partner replied: “Yeah why?”. She saw two or three people wearing hoodies.

Det Spt O’Malley agreed that Mr Burnett was dragged out of the house. Ms Farrell closed the door, ran upstairs to get her child and made her way out the back of the house.

The witness agreed that gardaí were able to ascertain from witnesses that five people were involved in the incident but there was no definite description of who anyone was.

An ambulance arrived and attempted to resuscitate Mr Burnett but he was pronounced dead in the early hours of the following morning. An investigation was commenced from which up to six suspects were generated.

A search warrant was obtained to search Gibney’s house on August 27 which the court heard is approximately 400 metres away from where Mr Burnett lived. A number of knives were seized from Gibney’s kitchen and three of those knives were involved in the investigation, said Det Spt O’Malley.

Gibney and his father presented themselves at Blanchardstown Garda station on August 28, 2012. Gibney wanted to give an account of his involvement on the night and made a number of admissions. He was subsequently arrested.

During the course of the interviews, Gibney outlined his involvement in the case saying that he stabbed the deceased three times in the right side. He answered a lot of the questions put to him which assisted gardaí but he did not refer to anyone else’s involvement on the night, the court heard. The witness agreed that Gibney had showed genuine remorse for his actions.

Under cross-examination, Det Spt O’Malley agreed with Giollaiosa O Lideadha SC, for the defendant, that his client admitted stabbing Mr Burnett three times before running away.

He repeatedly said in his garda interviews that he had no intention to kill or murder Mr Burnett, the court heard.

The witness agreed that his client had offered a plea to manslaughter a number of months before the first trial, again when a retrial was ordered as well as on two occasions during the most recent trial. These were not accepted.

Det Spt O’Malley said there was evidence indicating there was more than one attacker and gardaí interviewed a number of suspects. He agreed with counsel that it was put to two individuals that they had inflicted the fatal wounds on Mr Burnett.

The court heard that Gibney is a model prisoner and is working hard to make a positive contribution to other people in his life. No one else has been charged with the offence so far, the court heard.

Outlining the mitigating factors in the case Mr O Lideadha said his client had no previous convictions, has never sought bail and is remorseful for his actions.

The defence counsel told Mr Justice Butler that his client is a normal young man who got involved in a terrible event and has done everything since then to try and make amends for what he did.

Counsel then handed in a number of reports and certificates on behalf of his client for completing various courses in custody.

The barrister said a crucial factor in the case was admissions made by Gibney to gardai and it should weigh heavily as a significant distinguishing factor in his favour.

In conclusion, Mr O Lideadha said the jury had accepted the reasonable possibility in this case that Gibney did not intent to kill or cause serious harm to Mr Burnett.


KEYWORDS: Court, Stabbing

 

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