Fatal stabbings 'out of control' - top judge

Incidents of fatal stabbings are now out of control, a senior judge warned tonight.

Mr Justice Paul Carney told University College Cork’s Law Faculty the number of cases coming before the Central Criminal Court had soared, branding it an epidemic.

He also quoted grievances from victims’ groups that sentences are too lenient.

The Central Criminal Court Judge added average manslaughter terms were now running at four and a half years but stressed that it was not for him to call for a reassessment of sentencing.

“Fatal stabbings are now in fact out of control,” Mr Justice Carney said.

“The Registrar of the Central Criminal Court has just informed me that cases coming into the court have doubled overnight and that even after that a steady pattern of growth is projected for the future.”

Mr Justice Carney is the presiding judge of the Central Criminal Court and a leading expert on Irish criminal law.

He has presided over a series of high profile trials.

He was delivering a speech to UCC’s Law Faculty on the role of the victim in the criminal process.

“One of the greatest grievances of victims is the level of sentences imposed by the courts in respect of the taking of human life,” he said.

He quoted statements by victims’ group Advic that sentencing judges are being rendered powerless in their courts by the Court of Criminal Appeal.

He listed a number of cases where the sentence was reduced by the Court of Criminal Appeal but said any decision on the reassessment of sentencing remains with the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeal, not him.

“The judicial researchers of the High Court inform me that after allowance has been made for the part suspension of many sentences, the effective average custodial sentence being imposed for manslaughter is one of six years.

“This is of course before the statutory remission of 25% kicks in as or right, leaving four and a half years as the term to be actually served on average for a vicious wilful and gratuitous taking of human life.”

Mr Justice Carney also serves as Adjunct Professor of Law at UCC.

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