Opinion Analysis

Friday 22 September 2017

Suffering lasts longer than killers' prison term

Those hurt by violent crime can feel that the system seems weighted in favour of the accused, writes Eamon Delaney

Last week, a young Dublin man, Jason Paget, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for breaking into a house in the middle of the night and subjecting a young woman and two of her male housemates to hours of terrorising, including trying to force them to have sex with each other, while he and his mate ransacked the place looking for money and valuables. They were armed with a hacksaw, knives and a bamboo guillotine. It was a horrendous ordeal. Paget fled to England but was caught and brought to trial here.

Presiding, Mr Justice Paul Carney said that Paget's "voluntary use of drugs and a dysfunctional background offered him no mitigation". And he said that the "criminality and viciousness of the offence had already been measured by Court of Criminal Appeal". Paget's accomplice, Stephen Phelan had his own sentence for these crimes increased from nine to 13 years, after the DPP had appealed the length of the earlier sentence.

Do these sentences represent a new get-tough policy on such gratuitously cruel and degrading crimes? Let us hope so. Last week, a 20-year-old man got life for murdering a Daniel Fitzgerald, a young man in Limerick who was simply 'in the wrong place at the wrong time'. Thinking that Daniel had been involved in the burning of some clothes in a van intended for a stall, the accused, Kenneth Collopy, went with an accomplice, David Bossoli, and shot at 24-year-old Daniel Fitzgerald as he left his uncle's house. The defence claimed that Collopy had just intended to shoot at the house. In fact, he fired 17 times with a Glock semi-automatic handgun, and Bossoli saw Fitzgerald fall to the ground. However, Bossoli later retracted his statement and claimed to remember nothing, for which nonsense he was regarded as a hostile witness, with the Judge Barry White directing that a file be sent to the DPP so that he could consider prosecuting him for perjury. This too is a welcome get-tough policy, and it is tribute to Mr Justices Carney and White that they want to see justice being done for such victims.

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