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Melanie Morris: Finally, a judge not afraid to give a thug a hefty sentence

There are times that the strong hand of the law should be felt and, to that end, I'm pleased to see Judge Tony Hunt doled out a stiff sentence last Friday in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

The accused, a Mr Michael Delaney, has been ordered to serve 18 years for his part in the aggravated burglary with a hammer, and false imprisonment of a couple -- James and Sally Mountaine -- in their Templeogue home.



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Delaney was part of a team of (to quote the Judge) 'depraved barbarians' who burst into the couple's house on the morning of February 3 last year, before tying them up, beating them and threatening them horrifically.

The incident was horrendous, the sort of thing that traumatises an individual to their core, and stays with them for life. And it was on hearing the victims' impact statements, as well as considering the evidence in front of him, that Judge Hunt delivered his tough sentence.

In a time where house break-ins, tiger kidnapping and the capturing of innocent people seems to be on the rise, we need judgments like this to pull would-be criminals back from their vile actions.

Life in the 21st century seems all too disposable. With weekly shootings, gangland murders and revenge killings, we are becoming numb to the reality of such atrocities.

But to terrorise, harm and torture innocent people in their own homes is taking crime to an even sicker low.

This particular break-in occurred because the gang, who knew that Mr Mountaine worked in a golf club, wrongly thought he brought cash from the club home with him.

In trying to get the couple to hand over the money, the gang performed the most horrendous violence on the couple, and threatened them with more.

On reading the details of the case, it sounded like something out of Anthony Burgess' ultra-violent classic book A Clockwork Orange; the 1971 movie of which was banned for decades, due to its disturbing content.

We, as citizens, deserve to feel secure in our homes, not at the mercy of random break-ins and assaults, and the only way to teach these thugs a lesson is by ensuring their crimes are met with the toughest, harshest sentences.



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And while Charles Dickens once declared the law to be "an ass", here's one great occasion where the courts have got it right. Because, up until now, all we ever seem to hear about are killers who are let off lightly, rapists who seem to serve alarmingly short sentences, and thugs whose thick knuckles aren't being rapped half enough.

So, unless judges start dishing out sentences that are actually going to hurt, and penetrate the thick skulls of the perpetrators of such hideous crimes, it's never going to stop.

Last Friday, Delaney, a self-confessed chronic alcoholic and drug abuser, pleaded guilty to the crime, and asked that his troubles with drink and drugs be taken into account prior to sentencing.



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I have no idea why it should and was delighted that Judge Hunt disregarded the request, because to try to explain away or excuse such barbaric behaviour is impossible.

That one man can commit that sort of act on other human beings, regardless of circumstance, is unforgivable.

No sentence will ever compensate the Mountaines for what they've experienced.

I'm sure their lives have been changed forever.

But perhaps knowing their assailant has been dealt longer than what's traditionally referred to as a lifetime sentence (15 years) will hopefully indicate the seriousness with which their testimony has been taken.

And perhaps, just maybe, the judgment might lay down some encouraging legal precedent for similar cases in future.