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Youth's sentence for trying to kill woman he met on app 'too lenient'

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Stephanie Ng. Picture: RTÉ

Stephanie Ng. Picture: RTÉ

Stephanie Ng. Picture: RTÉ

A teenager's sentence for attempting to murder a woman he met on a dating app is too lenient, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The court said the element of planning and premeditation from the youth, who is now 17, meant that, "even as attempted murders go", the offence had to be seen as being at the high end of the spectrum.

The 11-year term of detention imposed on the teenage boy, who was just 15 at the time he tried to kill Stephanie Ng (25), had been scheduled for review after five years.

But the State appealed the sentence on the grounds of "undue leniency", arguing that the review was too early, given the gravity of the offence.

The youth, who cannot be named because of his age, has been in custody since December 2017, when he lured Ms Ng to an isolated area at the Sea Front, Queen's Road, Dún Laoghaire.

After pleading guilty to her attempted murder, the teenager was sentenced to 11 years' detention in November 2019 with a review to begin on January 1, 2023.

The attacker met his victim on the Whisper social media app, where he had pretended to be 19.

He tried to kill her during their first face-to-face meeting, after suggesting they take a selfie by the water's edge.

There, he grabbed her from behind and choked her to unconsciousness before slashing her neck with a knife.

Gardaí later found a book of drawings in his bedroom, including a sketch of someone being cut up with a knife.

The words "serial killer" had been written on another page.

His victim gave evidence to the court of taking what she thought was her last breath, as the teenager tried to 'choke the life' out of her before leaving her for dead.

Through tears, she told the Central Criminal Court that the boy had destroyed her life.

In May, she attended a remote hearing of the Court of Appeal, at which the DPP challenged the sentence.

The boy and his parents also attended remotely from where he is detained at Oberstown Children Detention Campus.

Anne-Marie Lawlor SC told the court at that hearing that the DPP was not taking issue with the sentence of 11 years, but said that the review after five years did not reflect the seriousness of his crime.

"It is the minimum sentence he will serve and does not reflect the gravity of the offence," she argued.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice George Birmingham, presiding with Justice McCarthy and Justice Isobel Kennedy, delivered judgment yesterday.

They concluded that the sentence was simply inadequate, and "while obviously the product of great care and attention, did not meet adequately the enormity of the offending behaviour".

"A crime of attempted murder is, by definition, an offence of extreme seriousness," they said.

"In this case, the element of planning and premeditation means that even as attempted murders go, the offence has to be seen as being at the high end of the spectrum."

The judges invited both prosecution and defence to liaise with each other ahead of the resentencing.

Irish Independent