Monday 19 March 2018

Judge who sentenced O'Reilly and Lillis set to retire

Mr Justice Barry White
Mr Justice Barry White
Mr Justice White

Danielle Stephens

Central Criminal Court judge Mr Justice Barry White, who has presided over some of the country's most high-profile rape and murder trials in Ireland, is retiring from the bench.

Mr Justice White, who presided over the Joe O'Reilly and Eamon Lillis murder trials, amongst others, said that "the guillotine" will come down on a legal career spanning 47 years at midnight on September 12.

"I will not be here next term," Mr Justice White told lawyers yesterday at the Central Criminal Court, where the most serious offences in the criminal calendar are tried.

The retirement of the occasionally outspoken judge, who turns 70 this year, had been flagged in advance by Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, the President of the High Court.

Earlier this year Mr Justice Kearns expressed concern about the departure of some of the country's most senior judges through attrition as well as to meet the staffing needs of the new Court of Appeal.

Mr Justice White, who was one of the country's best known criminal defence lawyers before he was appointed to the High Court in 2002, has handed down sentences on some of the most prolific murder and rape cases in recent years.

In 2007 he sentenced Joe O'Reilly to life after he was convicted for the murder of his wife Rachel O'Reilly in 2004.

In another case of wife-killing, Mr Justice White sentenced Eamonn Lillis to six years and 11 months in prison for the manslaughter of his wife Celine Cawley in 2008.

Lillis, who is due for release next year, was initially shocked by the harshness of the sentence.

But the judge explained that the defendant had been "selfish" in how he had acted during the case. "Your expression of sorrow and remorse rings hollow to me and I consider it to be self-serving," he said before handing down sentence.

Mr Justice White has been known to be outspoken in his criticism of some of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution's decisions in some cases.

In 2012, the judge disagreed with the DPP's decision to accept the pleas of two men involved in the manslaughter of Polish national Lukasz Rzeszutko.

When sentencing Stephen Byrne and Edward Byrne, the judge said that if he thought life sentences would "stand the test of the Court of Criminal Appeal" he would have had no hesitation in handing them down to the pair.

Last month, Mr Justice White criticised the DPP for accepting a plea for attempted rape when he believed that it was "irreconcilable and inconsistent" with what evidence suggested.

Mr Justice White studied at the Kings Inn and UCD and was called to the Bar in 1967, as well as the Inner Bar in 1982.

Irish Independent

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