The 52-year-old spent the first night of his six years and 11 months sentence in Wheatfield Prison after he was given the jail term yesterday following his conviction for the manslaughter of his wife Celine Cawley.
In the Central Criminal Court Mr Justice Barry White said Lillis’s expression of remorse had rang hollow, and that he was satisfied that he could take the lies, deceit and the cover-up of the advertising producer into account in determining the sentence.
Lillis, who stood during the 20-minute sentencing, gave a muted reaction, while handshakes were shared between members of the Cawley family and the gardaí when the length of the sentence was read out.
Afterwards, Lillis was processed at Mountjoy and then taken to Wheatfield Prison.
Later, Celine Cawley’s brother Chris paid tribute to his sister, claiming she was a “dynamic, kind, successful, fun-loving and caring person” who had lit up the lives of family, friends, neighbours and colleagues.
His voice breaking, he said: “Celine, we love you.”
The Cawley family did not make any reference to the sentence.
However, Advic, which works with the families of victims of killings, said the length of time Lillis will spend in prison was “disgraceful”.
With good behaviour Lillis could be free in about five years. Advic had already questioned Mr Justice Barry White’s decision to allow Lillis out on bail for a week following his conviction for manslaughter last Friday.
Yesterday, Advic co-founder Noeleen Slattery-Lee said: “I would have thought the least he would have got would have been 10 years.
“I would not think [it is the right sentence] and I am quite sure that Celine’s family do not think so.”
The length of the sentence is likely to be appealed, but Mr Justice White said he was satisfied that a sentence of seven years was appropriate, taking all factors into account.
One month of the sentence was dropped after SC for Lillis, Brendan Grehan, pointed out his client had spent three weeks in custody following his arrest in connection with Ms Cawley’s death. Lillis had denied causing the death of his 46-year-old wife at their home in Howth on December 15, 2008.
Lillis had even named someone else as a possible suspect, and it was only on the opening day of the trial last month that he revealed that there had been no burglar in the house that day.
Mr Justice White told Lillis that the only positive act he carried out on that day was to call the emergency services and to try and revive his wife.
“Your expression of remorse rings hollow to me,” he told Lillis.
The judge said a sentence of 10 years might be appropriate, but that he had to balance other matters, such as the likelihood of continuing media coverage and character testimonials, in deciding the final sentence.
He also cited the Wayne O’Donoghue case and that of so-called “Scissors Sister” Linda Mulhall.
“Your behaviour has had a devastating effect on people of all ages, from your father-in-law, who is some 80 years of age, down to your own daughter, who is 17 years of age.”