Justice of the harrowing kind

Mícheál Lehane looks at victims of crime who have to suffer the justice system to get justice.

SHEILA GUY had never been in court before the trial of her son, Jonathan’s, killer.

She is one of hundreds of grieving parents who had to survive the legal system to get justice.

Jonathan Guy, 21, was an innocent bystander when a row broke out after a house party at Donaghmede, Dublin, in March 2001.

He was fatally stabbed by Stephen Kelly, aged 21, of Westpark, Artane, Dublin.

In court, Sheila had to sit directly behind Kelly as he was sentenced to 14 years for manslaughter of her son. The Guys had to wait 20 months for the 13-day trial.

“A person out on bail can sit where he likes in the court. Jonathan’s killer choose to sit in the seat in front of us. That was terribly upsetting,” she said on the Marian Finucane radio show. “There’s no closure, you can’t go on, you can’t move ahead. There is this torment there, that there’s something you haven’t been told.”

The Victim Support organisation helped Sheila and her husband, John, through the most harrowing period of their lives, but the trial proved an ordeal.

“The gardaí were very good, they told us everything in the beginning, then they have their jobs to do and they go on.”

Mary O’Connell endured the same trauma when her son, Brendan, aged 22, was stabbed in the People’s Park in Limerick in December, 1999.

Robert McNamara, of Clarina Park, Ballinacurra, Weston, was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years for the manslaughter.

The O’Connells saw McNamara several times on the streets of Limerick in the months after their son’s death.

“Brendan’s girlfriend met him in a taxi rank a few weeks later. He was out on bail so many times and we were never told this man was out on bail,” Mary told the Marian Finucane show.

It was three years before the O’Connell case went to trial and the wait was almost unbearable for the family.

“It was hell, hell, hell. It’s too long, three years for a murder trial.”

She also had to sit near her son’s killer in court. Without Victim Support she wouldn’t have been able to attend the trial at all, she said.

“There is this guy who killed my son at my side,” she said. “He actually walked past me, brushed off me. He should be away from us, he was sitting right beside me, which I think is terrible.”

The Furlong family had to wait nine years before there was a breakthrough in the investigation into the murder of their daughter Patricia, 19.

Patricia Furlong was strangled after attending the Fraughan Festival at Johnnie Fox's pub at Glencullen in the Wicklow Mountains in July 1982. Patricia’s sister-in-law, Ann, remembers the long wait for justice and she even believed the killer might never be found: “It’s dreadful. I really thought there was such a thing as a perfect murder and someone could just get away with it. Every day from the day Patricia was killed, her mother prayed that someone would be found. She was dead five weeks when Vincent Connell was arrested.”

Mr Connell’s murder conviction was later overturned after an appeal.

The Furlongs lived in constant fear that Patricia’s killer would strike again and they believe the justice system doesn’t always help the victim.

“I always felt the law was for the person who had committed the murder. The detectives at our trial explained everything to us, other than that you wouldn’t know whether you were coming or going, you would feel like giving up and not bothering going back the next day,” Ann said.

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