Louth woman jailed for role in Clogherhead Post Office robbery has jail term cut on appeal

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Mother jailed for role in the robbery of a post office, where she collected children's allowance, has jail term cut on appeal

Mother jailed for role in the robbery of a post office, where she collected children's allowance, has jail term cut on appeal

A mother-of-one jailed for her role in the robbery of a post office, where she collected children's allowance, has had her jail term cut on appeal.

Sarah Doyle (24), of Killaley, Togher, Drogheda, Co Louth, had pleaded guilty at Dundalk Circuit Criminal Court to a charge of robbery at Clogherhead Post Office on May 3, 2016.

She was sentenced to four years imprisonment with the final two years suspended by Judge Michael O'Shea on May 12, 2017.

Doyle, the single mother of a four-year-old child, successfully appealed her sentence on Friday with the Court of Appeal holding that the sentencing judge should have averted, in greater extent than he did, to the detrimental affect that custody would have on the mother-child relationship.

She was accordingly resentenced to four years imprisonment with the final two-and-a-half years suspended.

Giving judgment in the three-judge Court of Appeal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said an armed robbery took place at the Clogherhead Post Office when three men entered, one of whom was carrying a sledgehammer which he used to break down a door. The second man was armed with what staff understood to be a firearm and the third carried an iron bar and taser.

The men threatened the staff members and made off with approximately €7,000. It was children's allowance day when the post office carried substantial cash amounts. the judge said. 

Doyle's role was to aid the raiders make good their escape. She waited for the men in her car where the raiders' car was driven to, and burned out, before driving them to safety.

She was a customer of the post office, where she collected children's allowance, and she knew the location as well as the local roads. She was aware the robbery would involve weapons, namely a taser.

Mr Justice Mahon said that while Doyle had no participation in the robbery, or in the threatening of staff, her role in the whole affair was very important and could not be described as minor.

That she was a customer of the post office, and collected her child allowance there, must have been of assistance in the planning of this undertaking, Mr Justice Mahon said. She received €1,000 from the proceeds of the crime.

Mr Justice Mahon said Doyle had no relevant previous conviction, however, she was known to gardaí for being associated with known drug users, and had a serious cannabis addiction herself.

She had one child aged four years old who was being cared for by her mother while she was in prison and Doyle was estranged from the father.

At the time of the sentence she had entered into a drug treatment programme and was drug free.

Mr Justice Mahon said Doyle was effectively a first time offender, who made admissions, pleaded guilty and her family responsibilities, including her role as a carer for her mother, had to be reflected in the sentence.

He said the sentence decided upon would ordinarily be seen as falling within the sentencing judge's range.

However, in so far as the court was sentencing a first time offender and young mother, it was important for the sentencing court to ask itself what was the minimum that had to be served to meet sentencing objectives.

"With some hesitation", Mr Justice Mahon said the court felt that because of the family responsibilities, the sentencing court could have gone further.

Every month during which mother and child were separated had the potential to impact on the mother-child relationship detrimentally. This was an issue the trial judge should have averted to in greater extent than he did.

Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Hedigan, said the court would reimposed a four year sentence but suspend the final two-and-a-half years.

Doyle was required to enter into a good behaviour bond for the suspended period and she undertook to be so bound.