On Tuesday, Mr Justice Paul Carney gave a lecture to the Law Faculty of University College Cork, in which he outlined three broad types of manslaughter coming before the courts where knives were involved. These included circumstances involving the immigrant community which provoked an angry reaction.
“The immigrant community who do not integrate buy vodka and beer in an off-licence and sit around a table in somebody’s flat drinking. When a row breaks out there is invariably close to hand the knife which has been used in the preparation of the vegetables,” the judge said.
Kevin Brophy, a Dublin solicitor who specialises in immigration issues, described the comments as “utterly outrageous”.
“It is completely unacceptable. The immigrant community has enough problems in this country as it is without having a High Court judge branding them. The only section of the Irish community that he managed to point to is the immigrant, the unintegrated immigrant community. It is completely unacceptable for a High Court judge to make comments like that.”
Mr Brophy was speaking on Newstalk 106 after Mr Justice Carney gave his lecture on the role of the victim in the criminal process.
The Central Criminal Court judge said knife crime was now out of control and he believed the sentencing regime for manslaughter was rooted in a time before alcohol and drugs were so prevalent.
Fine Gael justice spokes-man Charlie Flanagan said the judge had done society a service by highlighting the rise in knife crime.
“In the last 10 years knife crime has spiralled out of control, with 153 murders involving bladed weapons since 2000. Yet the conviction rate is just 43%, which means that almost two out of three people charged with a knife murder are getting away without a conviction for murder.
“The judiciary must now explore the possibility of holding regular meetings to ensure that tough, consistent sentences are being handed down for knife murders and other serious crimes,” he said.
Joan Deane from AdVic [the Advocates for the Victims of Homicide] said she agreed with Mr Justice Carney’s comments and said the courts should not take a soft approach to manslaughter caused by knives.
“Whether it is a knife or a pick-axe or a gun, the end result is that a human life has been taken and that has to be taken seriously,” said Ms Deane.
She said the message given to the public, when the average sentence served for manslaughter was 4½ years, was that the crime was somehow acceptable, despite the impact it had on the families of the victims.