O’Donoghue solicitor to defend impact statements

THE solicitor who defended Wayne O’Donoghue is set to give an impassioned defence of the rights of victims to speak out in court about their ordeal.

O’Donoghue, who killed schoolboy Robert Holohan, had fresh allegations levelled against him when mother Majella Holohan made her statement last month.

Now O’Donoghue’s solicitor Frank Buttimer has been invited by University College Cork’s law society to argue in defence of the statements.

The debate, to be staged on Wednesday will see barrister Brian Leahy argue that victim impact statements should be banned.

Since Mrs Holohan made her explosive statement last month, judges have already signalled a possible clamp-down on what victims can say in court.

Dermot Knight of UCC’s law society said: “There has been a great amount of interest in the trial and we are hoping for a high turnout from students. We have regular debates on law and these are enormously beneficial for those students who intend to go on to criminal trials and those who want to become barristers.

“We try to keep our debates as topical as possible and I hope it will be a passionate debate.”

UCC students were among those who packed the gallery during O’Donoghue’s trial at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Cork last year.

O’Donoghue, aged 21, of Ballyedmond Hill, Midleton, Co Cork, was found not guilty of the murder of neighbour Robert Holohan. He was found guilty of the manslaughter of the 11-year-old and was last month jailed for four years by Mr Justice Paul Carney.

Mrs Holohan used her victim impact statement to allege that semen was found on her son’s body and that Robert was in O’Donoghue’s bedroom at 7.30am one day.

She also alleged that O’Donoghue had called Robert at 6am one day and that her son had also used his mobile to call 999.

Her allegations led to calls for victims to be restricted in what they can say in their statements, which are read out in court prior to sentencing.

O’Donoghue’s defence team, including Mr Buttimer, were also unhappy over the way the allegations were made, saying his name had been unfairly blackened.

Last week two judges issued warnings over victim impact statements, appearing to rule out a repeat of the kind of statement made by Mrs Holohan.

In a separate case, Mr Justice Carney told a prosecution barrister: “I would like you to ensure that in the victim impact statement no ‘hand grenades’ are lobbed in the course of it.”

The debate on victim impact statements takes place at the university on Wednesday at 7.30pm.

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