By Ruaidhrí Giblin
A CORK man who effectively tortured his pregnant ex-girlfriend by pouring boiling water over her, has had his eight-year jail term for the false imprisonment of another girlfriend upheld by the Court of Appeal.
Michael Lynch (26), of Tír na Spideoige, Inchigeelagh, had pleaded not guilty to false imprisonment of a woman he’d been seeing for three weeks at his rented home in Cork on November 19th, 2015.
He was found guilty by a jury at Cork Circuit Crimial Court and sentenced to 10 years’ jail with the final two suspended, by Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin, on February 16th, 2017.
Lynch has previous convictions for effectively torturing another, pregnant, ex-girlfriend by pouring boiling water over her, after first adding sugar to the water increasing its boiling point, and for assault causing harm to another ex-girlfriend before that.
Last week in Dublin, he lost an appeal against the severity of his sentence for the false imprisonment, with the Court of Appeal holding that, given his history of violence, particularly towards women – and ex-girlfriends – his sentence had to be a significant one.
Giving judgment in the three-judge court, President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said Lynch had collected the victim at a train station in Cork. She asked him to drive her to a relative’s house. He brought her to his rented home instead.
On the drive, she kept asking to be let out, to stop the car and drive her home. However, Lynch refused. He took her to his rented home that had a locked front door, but no back door.
During her detention, she described Lynch coming at her with knives, a machete and threatening her with boiling water. She was called a ‘tramp’ and a ‘whore’. He beat her across the hip with a machete, the judge said.
In the house was a large poster of Marilyn Monroe which Lynch cut with the machete, putting his victim in fear that he would do this to her.
The incident came to an end when Lynch’s landlord came to the property to discuss rent. This provided an opportunity for the victim to escape through a back window which she did. Mr Justice Birmingham said Lynch’s upbringing was a difficult one. He had lived a ‘nomadic, homeless existence’. He had 15 previous convictions including two for assault.
Both assaults involved former girlfriends. One involved the use of boiling water to which sugar had been added. The Court of Appeal increased that sentence from two-and-a-half years to five years, with the final year suspended following an appeal by the DPP in March of last year.
Lynch’s lawyers submitted that the sentencing judge did not have proper regard to a psychiatrist’s report which found Lynch to have a genuine and credible ambition to avoid reoffending.
The psychiatrist expressed the view that Lynch represented a low risk of harm to others. However, Mr Justice Birmingham said the psychiatrist’s opinion was ‘far from unqualified’. Lynch’s own lawyers said ‘there were a few buts’.
Mr Justice Birmingham said the psychiatrist’s report made its findings if Lynch had some stability in his life, if there was structure to his day, and if he avoided alcohol.
The paragraph of the report which expressed a view that he would be a low risk to others concluded by making reference to what Lynch had told the psychiatrist about his past offending.
In fact, what the psychiatrist was told about Lynch’s previous offending was incorrect, Mr Justice Birmingham said. He said the matter that came before the Court of Appeal last year was ‘particularly outrageous’ involving an assault with boiling water to which sugar had been added.
Mr Justice Birmingham said criticisms of the Circuit Court judge, for not having appropriate regard to matters in the psychiatrist’s report, were not made out. It was the judge himself who had sought the report, he added.
It was clear the judge paid considerable attention to the report, Mr Justice Birmingham said, including references to Lynch’s lack of remorse, the absence of insight into the harm he had done and ‘an element of self-justification’.
Mr Justice Birmingham said the report was somewhat undermined by false information that had been provided and there was no probing of the details of Lynch’s recorded convictions for violence.
It appeared as though the full extent of his previous violence was ‘not factored in’.
Given Lynch’s history of violence, in one case ‘particularly appalling violence’, Mr Justice Birmingham said the offence had to be met with a significant sentence. He said the Circuit Court imposed a significant sentence, but a structured one, by suspending the final two years.
Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice John Edwards and Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy, said the Court of Appeal could not conclude that the sentence fell outside the range available and the appeal was therefore dismissed.