Teen who killed blind grandfather jailed for one year
Published 02/11/2010 | 05:00
A TEENAGER has been jailed for one year for killing his partially-blind grandfather for €92 to pay his rent.
Last night the sentence was branded as an "outrage" with politicians warning against a "softly-softly approach" to serious crime.
Eamonn Coyle was just 16 when he stabbed and strangled Francis O'Neill, a former psychiatric nurse, for the cash to pay his rent.
Placing Coyle on additional two years of probation upon release, the judge said yesterday he accepted the teenager never intended to kill his grandfather or even to seriously harm him.
Mr Justice McLaughlin also told Omagh Court, Co Tyrone, that Coyle , who is now 18, posed no future risk to the public, adding that the robbery had been the motive for the attack on a "frail old man".
The judge said he would recommend to the new justice department that, Coyle's movements and associates are closely monitored. But last night there was anger at the sentence. with calls for it to be reviewed.
"This is nothing short of outrageous," Stormont Justice Committee chairman Lord Morrow told the Irish Independent.
"It seems this softly-softly approach to serious crime is going to continue.
"This person killed his grandfather -- an elderly man -- making it all the more horrific.
"The public will not understand the rationale behind this decision, while I am shocked, horrified and disgusted."
Because of his age, Coyle sat outside the dock, in the main body of Craigavon courthouse.
Dressed in a white tracksuit top and navy bottoms, he showed no emotion as the sentence was passed.
Until now, the media has been banned from naming him or revealing that he was Mr O'Neill's grandson.
But rejecting a plea from defence counsel John McCrudden to continue the order preventing his identification, Mr Justice McLaughlin said the outcome of the case could only be properly understood by identifying Coyle. Mr O'Neill was found dead at his flat in the Brook Valley estate in Omagh on April 11, 2009. He had been strangled and suffered stab wounds to his neck, although these had not been life-threatening.
Coyle, now 18 and formerly of Holmview Terrace in Omagh, was originally charged with his grandfather's murder, but in June the trial was aborted for legal reasons. In September, Coyle pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Passing sentence, the judge said he had taken account of Coyle's young age at the time, his minimal criminal record and a series of positive reports from relevant agencies.
His mother, Rose Colton -- Francis's daughter -- and her sister Mary Kelly were with the young man. "Eamonn is my son and I'll stand by him," Mrs Colton told the court.