Helen McEntee commends courage of Clare woman who spoke on court justice

Natasha O’Brien’s attacker given a suspended sentence after admitting to beating her unconscious.

Natasha O'Brien (24) who was assaulted by serving Irish soldier Cathal Crotty (inset), has been commended by the Minister for Justice. Photograph: Brendan Gleeson

The courage of a Co Clare woman who questioned the justice she received in court after the man who attacked her received a suspended sentence, has been commended by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

Natasha O’Brien spoke up after her attacker Cathal Crotty, a 22-year-old soldier, was given a suspended sentence at Limerick Circuit Criminal Court after he admitted beating her unconscious. Crotty had also boasted about the random attack on social media.

Speaking on Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ, Ms McEntee said: “I cannot commend her enough for what she has done. And the bravery that she has shown. It is always open to the DPP to appeal a sentence. I say that broadly,”

The Minister also said it was “so important that victims of violence come forward” but noted that she could not comment on the case as there was a separation of powers between the judiciary and the Minister for Justice.


Ms McEntee said it was important that people encourage victims of violence “to do what Natasha has done, as difficult as it has been. And it is important to acknowledge somebody has been found guilty here, there has been a prosecution, there has been a conviction for this brutal and unprovoked assault on a young woman who was walking down the road, which shouldn’t have happened.”

She also said legislation would be enacted within weeks requiring those who provide character references to accused parties in court to be subject to cross-examination, in cases of gender-based violence.

“I think if any person is willing to stand up in court and give a character reference, they should be willing to stand over it,” said Ms McEntee. She also said the maximum sentence for assault causing harm had been increased from five to 10 years, in recent months.

“What I have tried to do for the last number of years is make sure that victims are protected, they can come forward, that support is there for them. But also that those guilty of these crimes are held accountable,” she said.

“But where somebody has been found guilty and there is a sentencing. If somebody is willing to stand up knowing somebody has been found guilty, they should be in a position that they can be cross-examined and stand over what they’re saying. And I say that broadly for any specific case,” she added.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist