A man who took part in a raid on a Co Tyrone farmhouse where “terrified” victims were beaten with iron bars is to have his jail term almost doubled, the Court of Appeal confirmed on Friday.
Senior judges ruled that the sentence imposed on Luke Walls for his role in ransacking the property and stealing £2,000 should be increased from three and a half years to six years.
Two men and a woman, aged in their sixties and seventies, were targeted during the aggravated burglary at Corgary Road in Castlederg.
Armed with iron bars, ropes and spikes, three masked intruders burst into the kitchen of the bungalow on February 19, 2019, and demanded money.
The two male victims were struck on the arms and legs during an ordeal lasting up to 15 minutes.
The burglars only fled when the woman bluffed them with a mention of “getting the gun”.
It was later discovered cash had been stolen from a bedroom, along with three mobile phones.
Walls, a 25-year-old member of the travelling community from Co Wicklow, was forensically linked to a bottle of cleaning fluid in the property.
He pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and two counts of common assault.
With neither of his accomplices apprehended, Walls claimed he played a minor role by remaining in the kitchen and using bleach to clean DNA traces.
He insisted that he had been unarmed, asked one of the other intruders to stop the assaults and was only given £100.
But the Director of Public Prosecution appealed the sentence imposed on Walls, contending it was unduly lenient.
Giving reasons for the decision reached in the case, the court cited the impact on the victims.
“All three were terrified,” Lord Justice McCloskey said.
He also held that the trial judge had wrongly rejected the prosecution’s contention that planning was an aggravating feature in the burglary.
“When the three miscreants entered the bungalow, they had clearly driven some distance with purpose. They had armed themselves, their faces were covered and they shouted repeatedly ‘Where’s the money?’” he said.
“The inference of a planned criminal enterprise was overwhelming and the judge identified nothing to the contrary.”
Concluding that Walls’ sentence was to be increased to six years, Lord Justice McCloskey confirmed he would spend half his term in custody and half on licence.