Court of Ap­peal finds O’Brien sen­tence was ‘un­duly le­nient’

Bray People - - NEWS -

THE prison sen­tence im­posed on the fa­ther of abuse vic­tim Fiona Doyle was ‘un­duly le­nient’ the Court of Ap­peal has found.

Dur­ing his trial, Pa­trick O’Brien (75) from Bray had pleaded guilty to six­teen charges of rape and in­de­cent as­sault at Mack­in­tosh Park, Pot­tery Road, in Dun Laoghaire from 1973 to 1982.

Trial judge Mr Jus­tice Paul Car­ney had de­scribed it as one of the worst cases of abuse one could pos­si­bly find.

Mr Jus­tice Car­ney, tak­ing into ac­count O’Brien’s health prob­lems, sentenced him to 12 years in prison, sus­pended the fi­nal nine and granted him con­tin­u­ing bail pend­ing an ap­peal. Bail was taken from him a few days later, the Court of Ap­peal heard on Wed­nes­day.

Pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal, Mr Jus­tice Seán Ryan, said the court was sat­is­fied that the sen­tence im­posed on O’Brien was un­duly le­nient and the three judge panel ac­ceded to the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tion’s ap­pli­ca­tion to re­view his sen­tence.

Mr Jus­tice Ryan, who sat with Mr Jus­tice Gar­rett Shee­han and Mr Jus­tice Alan Ma­hon, said the Court of Ap­peal will give rea­sons for its decision on Jan­uary 19 next, and will im­pose a new sen­tence on O’Brien on Jan­uary 26.

Coun­sel for the DPP, Bren­dan Gre­han SC, said the Di­rec­tor had brought her ap­peal on grounds that O’Brien’s age was not suf­fi­cient alone to mit­i­gate his sen­tence.

Mr Gre­han fur­ther sub­mit­ted that there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to say O’Brien’s med­i­cal con­di­tions would make prison life in­tol­er­a­ble, for ex­am­ple, there was no ev­i­dence that he had a ter­mi­nal ill­ness.

The proper ev­i­den­tial foun­da­tion was not sub­mit­ted to en­able the sen­tenc­ing court to take the view that it did, Mr Gre­han said.

That was the neg­a­tive ev­i­dence, Mr Gre­han said, and against that there was pos­i­tive evi- dence from Frances Na­gle O’Con­nor, di­rec­tor of Nurs­ing Ser­vices with the Ir­ish Prison Ser­vice, who said none of O’Brien’s med­i­cal con­di­tions were such that the prison au­thor­i­ties could not deal with them.

Mr Gre­han said the Supreme Court had held that even if the age of a per­son sug­gested they would spend the rest of their lives in prison, that could not be con­sid­ered a life sen­tence.

O’Brien’s bar­ris­ter, Mary Rose Gearty SC, said Mr Jus­tice Car­ney was one of the most ex­pe­ri­enced judges in this area and he was en­ti­tled to sus­pend the pe­riod that he did.

She said it was ac­cepted that the 12-year sen­tence re­flected the hor­ren­dous of­fend­ing be­hav­iour.

Pres­i­dent of the Court of Ap­peal Mr Jus­tice Seán Ryan asked Ms Gearty if she could think of another case where mit­i­ga­tion had re­duced a sen­tence by three-quarters.

In re­sponse, Ms Gearty said a three year jail sen­tence was sig­nif­i­cant and a 12 year sen­tence was ‘not noth­ing’.

She said O’Brien was now fac­ing a pro­por­tion of his life in jail which ‘could be the rest of his life’.

The 74-year-old had come be­fore the courts for sen­tenc­ing where there had been no ev­i­dence of of­fend­ing be­hav­iour for 30 years, ac­cord­ing to Ms Gearty.

She said the Court of Ap­peal was not in the business of sub­sti­tut­ing sen­tences for ones they might pre­fer to im­pose.

O’Brien, who is in cus­tody, was present in court for Wed­nes­day’s hear­ing. He en­tered the room with a mo­bil­ity aid.

His daugh­ter Fiona Doyle, who waived her right to anonymity, was also present in court with up to a dozen sup­port­ers.

Speak­ing after the hear­ing, Ms Doyle said she would never get over the abuse she suf­fered, but wel­comed the rul­ing.

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