Debate on sentencing urged as Senator 'disgusted' over rape case
Fianna Fáil Seanad leader Darragh O’Brien said he wanted to put on the record his and his party’s disgust at the sentence handed down last Monday in relation to the brutal case of rape, incest and child abuse over a prolonged period.
He could not understand how a sentence of only 12 years could be imposed, that nine years of that sentence would be suspended –“for good behaviour and due to ill health” – and that the judge granted leave for the sentence to be appealed.
While the judge had made his reasons clear, people in his position had a duty of care to citizens “and certainly a duty of care to that lady who waived her anonymity to go into court and stand up to her abuser”.
She had received no protection from the justice system, in his view. “I am frankly disgusted,” added Mr O’Brien.
He called for consideration to be given to the introduction of an independent sentencing committee to which judicial determinations could be referred in cases where it was clear that they were not correct or, at the very least, open to question.
Rónán Mullen (Ind) said there should be a debate on sentencing policy with particular focus on how the confidence of the citizenry in relation to sentencing could be ensured.
He was conscious that women in particular took note of sentences such as that handed down earlier this week.
“It’s with no disrespect to the judge that I say they wonder when they see sentences like this whether, in fact, it is connected with a largely male judiciary and whether there is actually full understanding still in our society of the gravity of offences, particularly the offence of rape.”
Catherine Noone (FG) said she hoped the Director of Public Prosecutions would appeal the leniency of the sentence.
Fidelma Healy-Eames (FG) said: “Let’s do this woman the honour this time of having a debate on this issue.”
David Norris (Ind) cautioned that Senators should be careful before allowing themselves to be driven by “sensational tabloid newspaper headlines.”
That would be unfair to both the judiciary and to victims.