Wednesday 20 September 2017

Court disturbances as man given nine years in prison for manslaughter

Martin Toland has been found guilty of killing one friend and injuring another
Martin Toland has been found guilty of killing one friend and injuring another

Natasha Reid

THE MOTHER of a man stabbed to death in his own home has said there is no justice system in this country, after his killer was sentenced to nine years in prison for his manslaughter.

And members of the killer’s family were given a garda escort out of court.

The 36-year-old Dublin man had previously been sentenced to life in prison for his murder, but the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned his conviction and ordered a retrial at the Central Criminal Court.

Martin Toland, a father-of-one from Walkinstown Park, was then last month found guilty of the manslaughter of 28-year-old Alan Nolan at his apartment in Cedar Brook Walk, Ballyfermot, Dublin on September 8, 2007. He had denied his murder.

Toland was also sentenced to a concurrent seven years in prison for seriously injuring Mr Nolan’s friend, James Carroll (now 32) on the same occasion. He had denied that charge too, insisting he had stabbed both men in their hearts in self-defence.

There were dramatic scenes in court after the judge left, with abuse shouted at defence counsel Diarmaid McGuinness SC.

Gardaí removed the Nolan family from the courtroom, while members of the killer’s family were given a garda escort from the building.

Members of Mr Nolan’s family voiced their disappointment outside court afterwards.

“To say we’re disappointed is an understatement,” said Mr Nolan’s mother, Marian Nolan.

“The judge said he felt he should have given him 14 years but his hands were tied by the Court of Criminal Appeal,” she continued.

She pointed at the sign on the wall for The Courts of Criminal Justice.

“It’s the Courts of Criminal Law. It’s a game played out by two teams, and our children are the ones who lose,” she said. “Justice never wins.”

She described as horrendous the fact that the Court of Criminal Appeal had quashed a previous jury’s verdict of murder.

“This time it was a legal matter. The evidence was always solid,” she said. “We have to take what comes,” she continued.

“It is not right, 6 ½ years for taking my son’s life. And seven years for his friend, which means sweet damn all,” she added, referring to the sentence for that crime running concurrently. “He will not do one second for James Carroll, not one second.”

Mr Justice Barry White said today that the jury had not believed his account of being threatened by the victims and acting in self-defence; the jury had actually found him guilty of manslaughter by reason of provocation, something he had denied in garda interviews.

He said he had to accept the jury’s verdict and also Toland’s account of picking the knife up in Alan Nolan’s apartment.

“Fatal stabbings ought to attract lengthy sentences,” he said, adding that elements in society resort to knives to resolve differences and have little or no respect for human life.

He also noted that there was always more than one victim, as the deceased left behind a family and friends.

The judge said he felt a sentence of 14 years would be appropriate.

“Fortunately for you… I’m constrained by the Court of Criminal Appeal from imposing such a sentence,” he said.

The judge took into account that Toland was not of good character, having offended before. He noted that he appeared to have offended while on bail awaiting his retrial. However, he said he couldn’t take that conviction into account as it was under appeal.

He gave him credit for calling the emergency services and not fleeing the scene, and imposed a nine-year sentence on the manslaughter count.

Regarding the crime against James Carroll, the judge said Mr Carroll was lucky to be alive.

“You’re fortunate that you’re not facing a double manslaughter sentence,” he said. “If you hadn’t called the emergency services, he mightn’t be alive today.”

Mr Justice White noted that Toland had been sentenced to a concurrent seven years for that offence following his original conviction and he considered this appropriate.

As Toland had spent 21 months in custody following his original trial, Mr Justice White suspended two and a half years of each sentence.

Mrs Nolan that only God knew why Toland had committed his crimes, but noted that: “He does have a past.”

She said she was very disillusioned with the legal system.

“Disgusted is not the word. There is no system. There is no justice system in this country. You can say one thing and next of all its appealed,” she said.

“This is going to appeal again. What’s he going to get, two weeks holidays somewhere, a clap on the back and walk out and go and injure someone else’s child?” she asked.

“I feel sorry for any family coming into this court looking for justice because they’re not going to get it,” she said. “We will never get over it. How can you get over that?

Mr Nolan’s brother, John Nolan, said that Toland had got six and a half years, but that the Nolan family had got life. Mr Nolan’s father, Tony Nolan, said the family had been bandied around by the justice system for the past five years.

“Human life is sacred,” said Mrs Nolan finally. “You’d get more for taking a packet of crisps than you would for taking a life. It’s horrendous.”

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