herald

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Judges need power to leave killers like Dwyer and Nash locked up for good

Graham Dwyer
Graham Dwyer

TWO notorious and evil psychopaths were this week sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mark Nash was convicted of the double murders in 1997 of Sylvia Sheils and Mary Callanan in Grangegorman, Dublin.

Both victims were subjected to a sustained and frenzied knife attack and suffered multiple fatal injuries and mutilation.

Nash is already serving a life sentence for the double murder in 1997 of husband and wife Carl and Catherine Doyle in Roscommon.

In another court last Monday the notorious Graham Dwyer was sentenced to life imprisonment for the depraved murder of Elaine O' Hara in August, 2012.

Monday was a good day for justice in this country and we can all sleep safer in our beds knowing that these two evil psychopaths are behind bars.

derisory

However, the 'mandatory' life sentences imposed on Nash and Dwyer do not mean that they are going to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

In the 70s and 80s, when I was a garda detective convicted murderers served a derisory eight or ten years in prison before being paroled and released on licence. It was ridiculous.

I have long campaigned that those convicted of murder should serve a minimum of 25 years before being eligible for any parole hearing. Victim support groups like Advic have been tirelessly campaigning along these lines.

As the law currently stands, Nash and Dwyer are still eligible for parole after serving less than ten years of their sentence.

I was glad to read this week that the average sentence served for life imprisonment is now 20 years. This is indeed a long overdue, necessary and welcome change.

However, I am convinced that there needs to be an urgent change in the whole aspect of the administration of justice in this area. I am convinced that justice would be better served if judges had the same discretionary powers in this country as they have in the UK and other jurisdictions.

In UK, for instance, at the conclusion of a murder trial where the accused has been found guilty judges can make recommendations that those convicted serve a minimum statutory sentence before being eligible for parole.

These sentences can range from ten to 40 years and in some cases they can recommend that person is never released.

I believe that the justice system in this country would be greatly enhanced and strengthened if the judges were given the same powers here. It currently rests with the Minister for Justice of the day.

We live in an ever more violent society. This has been borne out by recent research by NUI Galway which shows a rise in the number of persons serving life sentences - up from 139 in 2001 to 319 by the end of 2013.

Mark Nash and Graham Dwyer are loathsome and repulsive examples of the dark and terrifying underbelly of our ever increasing violent society.

In their cases 'life' must mean life.

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