Belfast Telegraph

Brothers who robbed priests in Supreme Court bid to cut 14-year sentence

Legal representatives for the brothers are to lodge papers with the Supreme Court.
Legal representatives for the brothers are to lodge papers with the Supreme Court.

By Alan Erwin

Two brothers jailed for breaking into parochial houses and robbing priests are set to go to the UK's highest court in a bid to get their 14-year terms reduced.

Owen John Maughan, 40, and John Patrick Maughan, 34, were convicted of a Northern Ireland-wide crime spree which included threatening a 71-year-old clergyman with a gun.

Defence lawyers claim more credit should have been given for pleading guilty to a series of offences over a three-day period in July 2016.

They question whether the period for obtaining maximum discount in the sentencing process should extend back before the trial process to any admissions during police interviews.

Senior judges in Belfast today agreed to certify a point of law of general public importance, but refused to grant leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The decision clears the way for the brothers' representatives to directly petition justices in London for a hearing.

Solicitor Paul Dougan, representing Owen Maughan, confirmed outside the Court of Appeal: "We will now lodge papers with the Supreme Court early in the New Year and hope it will take forward this issue, which raises a significant point of law for criminal cases in Northern Ireland."

In December 2017 the two defendants were ordered to serve seven years in prison and a further seven years on licence.

They were arrested in a Co Antrim field following a pursuit where a policewoman had to take evasive action to avoid being crushed by a vehicle driven at her.

Previous courts heard John Maughan tried to steal a gun from an officer's holster and later declared: "If I had got it I would have killed you all to get away."

Members of the Travelling community, the pair carried out three burglaries and attempted a further two.

Owen Maughan, whose address was given as HMP Maghaberry, was also convicted of breaking into the parochial house at St Peter's Cathedral on the Falls Road, west Belfast in July 2015.

During that raid, carried out with another co-accused, a handgun was produced and a 53-year-old priest held against his will.

Personal items were stolen, along with hundreds of pounds taken from a safe.

The priest was threatened with being shot in the foot, before being forced into a windowless bathroom where he was made to get on his knees and locked in overnight.

He was left feeling violated in his own home, with the experience said to have impacted on his ability to fulfil pastoral and professional duties.

John Maughan, from Birchdale Manor in Lurgan, Co Armagh, admitted separate driving offences.

Both men jointly targeted the parochial house at St Michael's Church in Finaghy, on the outskirts of Belfast.

A 71-year old priest answered the door to the pair, who produced a black handgun before proceeding to ransack several rooms and stealing around £80.

At one point threats were made to use the firearm on the elderly cleric, the court heard.

He was left extremely troubled by the experience and lost confidence in dealing with strangers.

Attempted burglaries also occurred at parochial houses in Holywood and Castlewellan, Co Down.

A further raid occurred at the home of a couple in their seventies, adjacent to a parochial hall in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

Owen Maughan put a gun to the man's head, claimed to be in the IRA and threatened to shoot him unless they were given money, the court heard.

Cash and jewellery was stolen, along with telephones and keys in a bid to impede the alarm being raised.

The brothers appealed the sentences handed down, arguing that they were manifestly excessive.

But last month the Court of Appeal rejected all grounds of challenge, including claims that the starting point in the sentencing process was too high. ends

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