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