He said he consulted a number of judgments by the Court of Criminal Appeal before deciding that he should have regard to Lillis’s cover-up and lies and the effect they had on the Cawley family. He said 10 years, therefore, seemed the appropriate sentence.
“It’s quite clear to me from the powerful victim impact report presented by Susannah Cawley that your offensive behaviour has had a devastating effect on people of all ages,” said the judge, mentioning his 80-year-old father-in-law and his daughter.
“Your own daughter sets out how she’s changed from a 16-year-old girl to a hardened 17-year-old adult,” he said of her victim impact statement.
He said that he also had to take Lillis’s personal circumstances into account, including the testimonials given by his friends.
“I accept you’re now 52 and have a previously unblemished record and that this was out of character for you, although I find it hard to reconcile that with your own evidence,” he said, referring to Lillis’s testimony that he shoved a brick in his wife’s face and said: “Shove it where the sun don’t shine.”
“Your expression of sorrow and remorse rings hollow to me and I consider it to be self-serving,” he said. “I respect your right to plead not guilty but consider that an offer of a plea to manslaughter would have demonstrated true contrition and remorse.”
He said Lillis’s admission at the beginning of the trial that there was no third party was of no benefit.
Mr Justice White said he was conscious that the case had attracted considerable media interest.
“On your release from prison, you’re likely to still be of interest to the media,” he said. “I’m taking that into account.”
He said he was conscious of Detective Sergeant Gary Kelly’s evidence and Lillis’s daughter’s statement that she had been “hounded”. He said he could only ask that this would cease.
“I call upon the media to respect the privacy of the Cawley family,” he urged.
He said that after balancing the gravity of the offence and Lillis’s own circumstances, he decided that seven years was the appropriate sentence to run from Thursday when he went into custody.
He reduced this by a month when Brendan Grehan SC, defending, asked him to take into consideration the three weeks his client spent in custody after he was charged. He refused leave to appeal.