Woman who killed brother walks free after dad's plea
Published 18/02/2010 | 05:00
A WOMAN who killed her brother with a knife walked free yesterday after her father begged a judge not to lock her up.
Caroline Brennan (19), of Love Lane, Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of her brother Michael (22) following a party at their uncle's house on December 30, 2008.
However, she was found not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter, by a jury on Tuesday evening. After hearing yesterday that the DPP had "no issue" with a suspended sentence, Judge Paul Carney imposed a five-year prison sentence, suspended for five years.
Caroline and Michael Brennan's father had begged the judge not to send his daughter to prison: "I would plead with you to give us a chance to take her home and let her get on with her education. Jail is only going to impact more on the family."
He and his wife, Eileen, had lost their son Michael, and his wife had also lost three brothers in the last four years -- one of whom died in a mobile home fire in 2006.
"End the family's suffering," Mr Brennan said. "It's been a very tough four years and it could end here today." All of the family were supporting Caroline, he said, and no-one wanted to see her going to jail.
Michael Brennan died from a single stab wound to the chest at his uncle's house early on December 30, 2008. He had punched his girlfriend Lisa Peagram in the face and Ms Peagram was then comforted outside the house by Caroline Brennan.
When Caroline went back in to get Lisa's handbag, Michael wouldn't let her back out and an argument broke out. She took out a knife which she had brought with her from her own rented house, and struck her brother in the chest, delivering a fatal wound.
Garda Frances Dunphy said in the Central Criminal Court, sitting in Waterford, that the defendant had been co-operative with the gardai from the time of her arrest and had expressed remorse for what she did since that time.
She had no prior convictions, the garda said. She agreed with defence counsel Patrick McCarthy that Michael Brennan had consumed "a cocktail of drugs" at the party, including heroin, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol.
Prosecution counsel John O'Kelly said that, should the judge decide to suspend a custodial sentence, the DPP "would be of the same view". The crime was at the "lower end of the middle range" of such offences, he said, and there were also "substantial mitigating factors" to be taken into account.
The judge said his difficulty was that the accused had equipped herself with a knife, saying that it was to protect herself from her brother, and brought it to the scene. "It's my experience in this court that those who equip themselves with knives, allegedly for their own protection, tend to use them -- often with fatal results."
However, he took into account the accused's previous good record; the fact that she tried to prevent her brother from taking heroin; that she would have to live with a conviction for fratricide; that there was provocation; that there had been recent family tragedies; and the family's "united plea" that she not be imprisoned.
The judge said that, in light of those factors -- and the "highly unusual circumstances" that the DPP had indicated he would not take issue with a suspended sentence -- he was imposing a five-year prison sentence, suspended on condition that Caroline Brennan enter a bond to keep the peace for five years.