Sunday 22 September 2019

'Tom Humphries case 'brought judiciary into disrepute', Dáil told

Jailed: Tom Humphries. Photo: Collins
Jailed: Tom Humphries. Photo: Collins
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The light sentence handed down to child abuser Tom Humphries has “brought the judiciary into disrepute,” the Dáil has been told.

While she did not name Mr Humphries in her contribution, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald described how a recent case in which the perpetrator had “bombarded” his victim with thousands of text messages.

Mr Humphries, a former Irish Times sports journalist, was given a two and a half year jail term earlier this week for abuse a 16-year-old girl.

The 54-year-old had daily contact with the teenager over four months, exchanging 16,000 text messages.

Ms McDonald said the outcome of the case had “rightly disgusted and angered people” and there is “a very real problem with the sentences handed down to perpetrators of rape and sexual abuse”.

She was repeatedly asked to speak in general terms as it is against Dáil rules to comment on individual court cases.

But she added: “ Make no mistake a recent high-profile has brought the judiciary into disrepute.”

She asked Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald to consider introducing a ‘sentencing council’ which would set out guidelines for judges.

Ms Fitzgerald said there was a “difficulty” getting convictions in many cases of sexual violence.

“I do not believe enough attention has been paid to victims in our legal system. We need to have a sea change,” she said.

 The Tánaiste said previous studies had found that the judiciary are best placed to devise guidelines for sentencing rather than an outside body.

“Our criminal law is now very strong in relation to sanctions and particular penalties which judges can enforce. But in each particular case it is up to the judiciary,” she said.

But Ms Fitzgerald said she takes the view that “consistency of sentencing is an important issue”.

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