Saturday 3 December 2016

Knife crime is at 'epidemic' levels, insists victim's mum

Family calls for new laws after court suspends last two years of sentence

Ciaran Byrne and Laura Whelan

Published 27/02/2010 | 05:00

THE family of a man stabbed to death by a teenager yesterday insisted that new laws were needed to tackle knife crime, which had reached "epidemic" proportions.

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Charlotte Nolan, the mother of Sean Nolan -- who was stabbed to death by Finn Colclough in Ballsbridge, Co Dublin, in 2007 -- was speaking after her son's young killer won a suspension on the last two years of a 10-year manslaughter sentence.

Speaking outside the Court of Criminal Appeal (CCA), Ms Nolan said that the term originally imposed "effectively still stands" but, she added that "knife crime in this country has reached epidemic proportions and something has to be done, but that's not the judge's fault".

She added that the "law has to be changed".

Her comments provoked an immediate response from Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, who said knife crime remained "a matter of great concern" to him.

A spokesman insisted laws on the use of knives and similar weapons were already very strong and heavy penalties were in place.

A new act also provided for up to five years in jail for possessing a knife in public and gave more powers to gardai to search people.

The CCA ruled that trial judge Mr Justice Paul Carney should have taken into account an offer by the accused to plead guilty to manslaughter. That plea was refused by the DPP.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Nolan said that she was relieved the case was now over and she could grieve.

But she said the pain continued for friends and family.

When asked about the decision to suspend the last two years of the 10-year-term originally imposed, Ms Nolan said for her "it was never just about sentencing".

She added: "It's about personal responsibility and accountability."

Confrontation

The three-judge appeals court said it was substituting the original 10-year sentence handed down to Colclough (19), of Waterloo Road, Ballsbridge, Co Dublin, with a new term that "appropriately reflects the mitigating factors" of the case, including an offer of a plea of guilty to manslaughter.

Colclough stabbed Mr Nolan (18) with two knives during a confrontation outside the Colclough family home in Dublin on May 26, 2007.

The victim had been out celebrating his graduation from secondary school when he and friends stopped outside Colclough's house.

Colclough was charged with murder. He offered a plea of manslaughter, but this was rejected by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

A jury at the Central Criminal Court convicted him of manslaughter following a six-day trial in October 2008 and the 10-year sentence was imposed.

Allowing Colclough's appeal against the severity of his sentence, the CCA said it was "unclear what, if any, consideration was given" in respect of his offer of a plea to the manslaughter.

The court held that it would have been an "error in principle" if no consideration was given to this or if such consideration "was diluted" because issues "arose as to self-defence and provocation".

Irish Independent

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