Friday 23 August 2019

DPP opts not to challenge length of Humphries's prison sentence

Rape Crisis Centre reiterates concern over 'leniency' of two-and-a-half-year term

Gardaí had expected Tom Humphries’s sentence to be appealed by the DPP
Gardaí had expected Tom Humphries’s sentence to be appealed by the DPP
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Director of Public Prosecutions has decided against appealing the length of the prison sentence imposed on convicted paedophile Tom Humphries.

The two-and-a-half-year term was widely criticised by groups working with victims of sexual abuse when it was handed down last month.

However, court officials confirmed that the deadline by which the DPP could have lodged an objection passed yesterday evening with no appeal papers being filed.

The DPP still has the option of seeking a time extension from a court, but this appears unlikely.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Noeline Blackwell said although she was not surprised by the DPP's decision, she remained disappointed with the sentence "given the seriousness of the harm done to the child victim of the crime".

"We remain of the view that it was a lenient sentence which took huge account of the fall from grace of the offender," she said.

Ms Blackwell said legal opinion had been divided on the issue.

Ultimately, the DPP may have decided the sentence was not so far outside the range of appropriate sentences as to warrant an appeal, she said.

However, abuse survivor Fiona Doyle criticised the decision not to appeal.

"I felt that the sentence was very lenient and wouldn't serve as a deterrent against potential abusers," she said. "I would be afraid now that it would stop victims from coming forward."

Judge Karen O'Connor sentenced the former 'Irish Times' sports writer to concurrent terms of two-and-a-half years for the defilement of a teenage girl and two years for sexually exploiting her.

While there was much public criticism of the judge's decision, she also received strong support from within the legal community.

Law Reform Commission member and sentencing expert Tom O'Malley was among those who defended the judge, saying she got the sentence right.

Nevertheless, the failure of the DPP to lodge an appeal will surprise many observers.

The DPP has shown an increasing willingness of late to appeal the leniency of sentences.

Last year, it appealed sentences in 56 cases, up from 38 in 2015 and 31 in 2014.

Senior gardaí were known to be unhappy with the sentence and fully expected at the time that it would be appealed.

Some of the judge's remarks during the sentencing hearing proved controversial.

The judge said that while she was not excusing his behaviour, it would be difficult not to have sympathy for Humphries.

"It's something of a truism to say the higher the profile and success of a member of society the greater the fall," she said.

The court heard Humphries exchanged at least 16,000 text messages with the girl over three months leading up to March 2011, when his activities were discovered by family members.

He began grooming the girl when she was 14 and sexually abused her when she was 16.

The former journalist had been due to stand trial on sexual assault charges involving a second girl, but the prosecution was dropped.

Irish Independent

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