Judge says body-in-boot men deserved to get 20 years in jail
THREE men were yesterday jailed for eight years and another was jailed for seven-and-a-half years for disposing of the body of a mother of two.
But the judge, who presided over the trial of two men against whom murder charges were dropped because of a legal technicality, has said he would have imposed prison terms of up to 20 years on the four men had the law allowed him to do so.
The charred remains of Rebecca French (30) were found in the boot of a burning car on October 9 last year.
Two men, Ruslanas Mineikas and Ricardas Dilys, both of Goodtide Harbour, Wexford, were originally charged with Ms French's murder.
But the Lithuanian nationals pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of attempting to get rid of and destroying her remains after certain statements they made during garda interviews could not be used against them.
Two other men, Piotr Pasiak, of Lower John Street, Wexford, and Patrick O'Connor, who were never on trial for murder, pleaded guilty to impeding the garda investigation before the trial of the Lithuanian nationals got under way last month.
Yesterday, Central Criminal Court judge Mr Justice Barry White, who described the men's actions as "despicable", said they had showed no respect for Rebecca French after she died.
"You disposed of her body in a manner not befitting an animal," said the judge, adding: "In my view, 10 years is inadequate as a maximum punishment for this type of offence, but I am bound by the law."
The four men all had part of their sentences suspended provided they adhere to certain conditions.
The judge said one or more of the four men was responsible for 'brutally and savagely' killing Ms French but enjoyed a presumption of innocence.
All four had pleaded guilty to impeding the investigation and the judge said the maximum sentence he could impose was not half long enough. The State believes the 30-year-old was beaten to death beforehand in Mr O'Connor's house at Ard Na Dara, Clonard, Co Wexford.
Two of the men had offered manslaughter guilty pleas during their garda interviews, but these were not accepted by the DPP. This was his right, said the judge, and these pleas were not proffered during arraignment.
"Our law does not permit for the finding of guilt by accusation," he said.
"It seems to me there is little if any room for distinguishing between the four of you."
He noted that Mineikas had said he was sick with guilt during a garda interview but said little or no remorse had been shown by the four, apart from apologies in court, which rang hollow.
He imposed the maximum sentence and suspended the final two years in the case of Mineikas, Dilys and O'Connor and the final two-and-a-half years in the case of Pasiak, who had no previous convictions.
He said the conditions were that the three foreign men return to their own countries on completion of their sentences and not return to this jurisdiction.
Patrick McCarthy, defending Pasiak, said the sentence was out of kilter with what would usually be imposed and reflected a sentence for manslaughter -- with which his client was never charged. The judge told him to make his argument in the Court of Criminal Appeal.
Sentencing of the men had been adjourned after comments in a highly critical victim impact statement by the French family were read out in court last month. But DPP James Hamilton said no one could think the judge had been swayed by the remarks.