A young man who stabbed and killed an intruder who had attacked him in his home in the middle of the night has been jailed for three-and-a-half years by the Central Criminal Court.
Mr Justice Paul McDermott said Dean Kerrie, 21, was entitled to use force in defence of himself, his family and his home, but the force he used was "grossly" excessive given that the victim, Jack Power, was unarmed.
Taking into account that Kerrie, who was 17 at the time, showed genuine remorse and that he did not expect or instigate the violence on the night, the judge imposed a sentence of four years and six months with the final year suspended for two years. The sentence is backdated to June 30 of this year to take into account time Kerrie has already spent in custody.
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Dean Kerrie, 21, with an address at St Brigid's Square, Portarlington in Co Laois, was twice tried for murder but convicted by a jury of manslaughter for killing Mr Power after the deceased had entered his home at Shanakiel in Dunmore East, Waterford in the early hours of July 26, 2018.
Delivering sentence today, Mr Justice McDermott said that in impact statements made to the court, Jack Power's family had said that they felt their son had no voice in the courtroom. Trials, the judge said, focus on rules and evidence and provide "cold comfort for relatives whose loss is profound and life-long."
He described the deceased as an "exceptionally hard-working young man" who loved his work as a fisherman and was "fuelled by his father's encouragement". He was a role model and a fun companion for his brothers and his loss is "incalculable".
He added: "Nothing I do or say will alleviate this suffering. The sentence I impose must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence of manslaughter and also appropriate to his [Kerrie's] circumstances."
The trial heard that Jack Power had been drinking into the early hours and at about 3am saw damage to his car which he believed had been caused by Dean Kerrie. He went to Kerrie's home, picked up a rock and smashed the front window of the Kerrie home. He then entered through the front door.
Mr Justice McDermott said Mr Power assaulted Dean Kerrie in his bedroom and there was a suggestion that he also attacked Kerrie's mother. Kerrie told gardai that he found a knife by the side of the bed and stabbed Mr Power in the course of the melee. Mr Justice McDermott said that he does not believe the court has heard the truth about the "provenance of the knife and how it was found but he armed himself quickly" and used the knife.
Mr Justice McDermott said: "I have to consider the nature of what happened that night. The Oireachtas has recognised the special position of those obliged to defend themselves or their property from unlawful attack, particularly in their home. That is therefore a matter that has to be taken into account when considering the culpability of the accused. Those who are attacked in the home are entitled to use force and sometimes lethal force in defence of themselves and their home."
He said Kerrie's case was different to one where a person carries a concealed knife in public and the defendant’s case therefore attracts a lesser sentence. Kerrie did not instigate the attack and could not have expected it. He was at home when, "without warning" he was attacked by Mr Power who had thrown a large rock through a front window of the house and unlawfully entered.
The judge also noted that Mr Power was a tall, well-built man while Kerrie was of slight build and younger. But the jury's verdict indicated that Kerrie had used excessive force when he stabbed Mr Power, and the fact that Mr Power was unarmed was an aggravating factor, the judge said.
When the offence happened, Kerrie was a minor and had he been sentenced as a minor he would have been subject to a regime where the emphasis is on rehabilitation rather than punishment, the judge said.
An adult who had committed the same crime would have faced a headline sentence of seven years, the judge said. Taking into account Kerrie's age and the "difficult and pressurised situation created by the deceased which was not of his making," he set the headline at five years and six months.
He further reduced that having considered Kerrie's remorse and that he immediately contacted emergency services following the stabbing and accepted responsibility for inflicting the fatal wound.
Kerrie is considered a moderate risk of violent offending in the future and will be required to work with probation services and engage with anger and violence management if deemed appropriate after his release.
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