herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Where is the justice for victims' families if courts don't punish?

"IT'S the Courts of Criminal Law. It's a game played out by two teams, and our children are the ones who lose. Justice never wins."

Those were the words spoken by a grieving mother, Marian Nolan, as she pointed to the grand, imposing sign on the wall outside the Central Criminal Court last week.

A couple of days later and another grieving parent, Thomas McCormack, said: "Aidan Finnegan will hardly serve a single extra day for killing my son. "The legal system in this country is a joke."

Two cases, days apart. In both, the victims had been killed by friends; one stabbed, one shot. And in both cases the families eloquently damned the justice system.

One of the victims, Dara McCormack, was shot dead by his lifelong friend, Aidan Finnegan, for a debt of a few hundred euro. He was killed in front of his home, cradled by his dad as he lay dying.

His father Thomas McCormack was right when he pointed out that Aidan Finnegan would not serve an extra day in jail for killing his son, as Finnegan is already serving a lengthy, concurrent drugs sentence.

Thomas correctly labelled the sentence "meaningless", but did not blame Judge Paul Carney, who "gave out a sentence that was at the maximum end of what he was allowed to do".

Welcome to the parallel universe that is our crazy judicial system.

In effect, this man has got away with killing another man.

Finnegan will be eligible for parole in 2018 because of a nonsensical rule of 25pc remission being applied in cases of good behaviour in prison.



AMOK

Just days earlier, anguished Marian Nolan, the mother of stab victim Alan, condemned the sentence handed down to thug Martin Toland for the manslaughter of her son.

Toland ran amok with a knife, attacking Alan Nolan and inflicting life-threatening wounds on his friend James Carroll, who is lucky to be alive.

Incredibly Toland received the ludicrously lenient sentence of just nine years' imprisonment. With remission, he will be free man in 2018.

The judge in the Toland case, the experienced Barry White, candidly commented that 14 years was his desired term.

However, he stated: "I'm constrained by the Court of Criminal Appeal from imposing such a sentence."

Judge Paul Carney has made similar remarks in the past when passing sentences.

Judges Carney and White are two of the most experienced and respected judges in the history of the State.

Why are their hands tied by the Court of Criminal Appeal?

Why has that court developed a sentencing policy that sees fit to jail knife killers for just nine years and gun murderers for 12?

Where is Justice Minister Alan Shatter in all this? Surely he could lead the way and draft United States-style legislation to ensure degrees of sentencing in cases of killings -- with mandatory sentences for each degree?

Until there is a change, the scales of justice will remain irredeemably tipped in favour of the criminal.

And we will continue to see our system condemned by grieving families.

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