Kenny hopes case will not deter victims
Mandatory sentencing is an issue for the Government to reflect on, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said. He said the Fiona Doyle rape case, involving the defilement and continuous rape of a child over 10 years, had filled the nation with revulsion.
“I would like to believe that others who are or have been subjected to rape, incest or crimes of this horrific nature will not lose the courage to come forward and say their piece,” Mr Kenny added.
Replying to Opposition questions on the 12-year sentence, with nine years suspended, imposed on Ms Doyle’s father Patrick O’Brien, the Taoiseach said he admired her courageous decision to go public.
He said the case had been referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal as a priority.
Billy Kelleher (FF) said recent decisions by the Central Criminal Court sent out a very disturbing message.
“As part of a parliament and society, we must encourage people who have been abused and betrayed by loved ones or this State,” he added. “They should know that if they come forward, they will be listened to and justice will be sought.”
Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett intervened to say the judiciary was entirely separate from the Oireachtas. “We cannot discuss in here decisions of the court or criticise those who make those decisions,” he said.
Mr Kelleher said he respected Mr Barrett’s ruling and was not questioning the legitimacy of the Central Criminal Court. “What I am raising are the legitimate concerns of the Irish people,” he added.
Mr Kelleher called for a sentencing council and said the Court of Criminal Appeal needed permanent specialist judges to adjudicate on sentencing. There must be clear guidelines for rape and abuse sentences.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the judges who sat on the Court of Criminal Appeal were drawn from the High Court and Supreme Court and had significant additional obligations elsewhere.
“Consequently, the court has a backlog and victims and accused persons experience major delays in having their cases processed,” he added. “This has led to inconsistency and a lack of clarity in sentencing.”
Mr Adams said his father was an abuser. “Abuse creates in a family devastation that is beyond description,” he added. “It takes a very strong family to cope. I am blessed that I have one.” He said the Dáil had a duty to protect abuse victims. Ms Doyle deserved its support.
New court of appeal
Mr Adams said that given the difficulties with the justice system, legislation should be introduced to reform it and provide for a new court of appeal.
Mr Kenny said it was not just a case of the Oireachtas offering some sort of consolation or support. “Sometimes, we lose sight of the really fundamental important issues in life in respect of families and relations with each other because of inadequacies of one element of our system or not.”
The Taoiseach added that Mr Adams was well aware of the clear differences between the Oireachtas, the Government and the judiciary and the clear lines of demarcation which existed.
However, he would be happy to arrange, at an appropriate time, a debate on proposals relating to changes in the courts system. There were inadequacies in some respects in the system in terms of consistency, membership and the capacity to respond quickly.