herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Families of murder victims call for similar minimum sentence in the Irish courts

Joe O'Reilly
Joe O'Reilly
Rose Callely

The families of murder victims in Ireland have called for minimum tariff sentences to be handed down to killers after Alexander Pacteau was told he would serve a minimum of 23 years before he can apply for parole for killing Karen Buckley.

Criticising the fact that a murderer in Ireland can apply for parole after seven years, they said a life sentence does not exist here.

Pacteau (21) will be 44 before he can apply for parole.

Others who have received minimum sentences for their crimes in the UK include Clive Sharp, who was told at his 2013 sentencing for the rape and murder of Irish vet Catherine Gowing that he would serve a minimum of 37 years.

Rose Callaly, the mother of Rachel Callely who was murdered by her husband Joe O'Reilly, described the justice system in Ireland as "torture".

"There should be a minimum sentence here in serious cases, because there seems to be no consistency at all. The system in the UK seems to be a better one because the family at least have a date in the future they can go by, and they can rest assured that the person who took the life of their loved one will not be on the streets until at least then," she said.

"Here it seems to go from sentence, to appeal, and another appeal, and another one. It is torture," Rose added.

"What is a life sentence in Ireland can anyone tell me? It seems to vary. How can good behaviour come into it? Surely if you kill once you can kill again. Sometimes I think we are very lenient on killers.

"I'm delighted to hear that Pacteau got a 23-year minimum. It won't bring the girl back to her family but at least they will know he is locked up for a long time," she added.

Echoing her view, John Whelan, chairman of Advocates for Victims of Homicide Ireland (Advic) said the term 'life sentence' should not be used in Ireland because it gives a false impression of the length of time that will be served.

John's sister Sharon was strangled on Christmas morning 2008 in Kilkenny before her two young daughters, Zara (7) and Nadia (2), were burned alive in a fire set by postman Brian Hennessy.

"It would be more truthful to say a person was sentenced to a minimum of seven years, because that's when they can apply for parole here. It certainly isn't anything like 'life'," he said.

"Research that we have conducted with victims' families revealed that 63pc would like to see Ireland adopt a similar model to the British Criminal Justice Act."

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