There is an old saying; do the crime – pay the time, but many believe that this is not the case in modern Ireland. Irregularities in sentencing are becoming common with people committing crimes at the lower end of the scale, receiving over-the-top custodial sentences. Yet, those who commit murder and rape crimes are getting a far easier ride in the Irish justice system.
On the 21st of January, Patrick O’ Brien (72) was sentenced to twelve years in prison, with nine years suspended for raping his daughter on a regular basis in the 1970s and early 1980s. He was granted bail pending an appeal and walked out of the Central Criminal Court.
The victim, Fiona Doyle, who waived her right to anonymity, said that the abuse happened as often as “having dinner”. Mr Justice Paul Carney felt it was appropriate to take the defendant’s poor health into account when sentencing. However, he revoked bail days later, admitting that it was “wrong and insensitive” to let Mr. O’Brien walk free.
Last week, the Rape Crisis Network Ireland called for bail and sentencing practices to be reformed.
Fiona Doyle’s case has sparked public outrage as many feel that three years imprisonment is not justice. They continue to show support on social networking sites. On Facebook, the ‘Justice for Fiona Doyle’ page is nearing 12, 600 likes. Speaking to The College View, the administrator of the page said: “the support for Fiona has been amazing. It is the public voicing their concern and indeed caring for someone, where those who should have, let her down terribly. We can no longer stand by and watch as one by one victims are left to languish in a ‘no man’s land’ when the judiciary fail them”, she explained.
Meanwhile, Political Communication student, Aishling Phelan, believes that changes need to be made within the justice system. “The courts are unbelievably lenient on sex offenders, particularly if we compare it to the sentences handed down to those involved in tax evasion or fraud”, she said.
In March 2012, food importer Paul Begley (47) was given a six year custodial sentence for tax evasion, importing garlic disguised as apples for a number of years. He avoided paying a customs duty of €1.6 million due on one thousand tonnes of imported garlic. However, Mr Begley won his appeal and the sentence imposed is due to be reduced with the court ruling that the current one is not proportionate.
“In my opinion, for certain cases such as murder and rape, the right to appeal and good behaviour reducing sentences should not apply”, said multimedia student Greg Creevey. While PE and Biology student Christine Duffy believes that the health of a defendant should only be considered in extreme circumstances. “The sentence handed down to Patrick O’ Brien is ridiculous, he should have got life imprisonment”, she said.
Ultimately, a judge’s decision is final, but we must remember that they too can make mistakes. The question is whether or not it’s time to introduce mandatory sentencing and the implementation of new guidelines.