Victim statement ‘hijacked’ sentencing

AN APPLICATION should have been made for the immediate release of Wayne O’Donoghue after the mother of Robert Holohan made her victim impact statement, a senior counsel has said.

Blaise O’Carroll, speaking at a UCC Law Society debate on Wednesday, recalled how his client was about to be sentenced based solely on the evidence, mitigating circumstances and jury verdict, when Majella Holohan made her victim impact statement.

“It was completely hijacked in a sense... I took the view that what happened was so serious that an application should have been made under article 40 of the Constitution that he should have been released forthwith on the basis of what happened being the complete annihilation of the criminal justice system,” Mr O’Carroll said.

He did not specifically name Ms Holohan during the debate.

She claimed in her victim impact statement that semen had been found on her son’s hand. This had not formed part of the prosecution case.

O’Donoghue pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his neighbour, 11-year-old Robert Holohan from Midleton, Co Cork.

On December 14, 2005 a jury found him not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter and he was sentenced to four years in jail. The sentence was backdated to January 16, 2005, when O’Donoghue was taken into custody.

Mr O’Carroll’s comments come just days after Judge Paul Carney said that victim impact statements had “frustrated” the sentencing process.

Judge Carney had been speaking at another UCC debate and again he did not refer to Ms Holohan by name.

However, she reacted to his comments by saying she was deeply hurt and offended and felt it inappropriate to censor victims.

Mr O’Carroll said important basic rights and freedoms enshrined in the law must not be undermined.

Support After Crime spokeswoman Sally O’Hanlon, who also took part in the debate, argued that victims needed to be given an opportunity to speak as they often feel excluded from trials.

“I hope the result of Justice Carney’s speech is that the grey areas will be removed and proper structures put in place,” Ms O’Hanlon said.

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