A former Northern Ireland human rights campaigner, jailed for three years for sexually abusing his daughter, had his sentence doubled in Dublin today.
The Irish Court of Criminal Appeal directed that the judge in the trial of Vincent McKenna, 38, from Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, had been wrong in November, 2000 in directing that two three-year jail terms he imposed should run concurrently.
McKenna was convicted of abusing his daughter Sorcha on a weekly basis over an eight-year period, between the ages of four and 12 years, and Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions appealed against the leniency of the sentence.
Mr Justice Hugh Geoghegan, president of the three-judge appeal court, said the three years did not reflect the circumstances of the case.
He highlighted the ‘‘particularly depraved nature’’ of the offences committed by McKenna - a former head of Northern Ireland’s Families Against Intimidation and Terror (FAIT) organisation, and said it would be an injustice to the public not to impose a longer sentence.
Mr Justice Geoghegan said the judge at the trial in Monaghan Circuit Court had taken McKenna’s involvement in the Northern Ireland organisation into consideration, but he again stressed the degrading nature of some of the offences - and the fact that the charges had been contested.
He added: ‘‘The judge had a discretion, which in the circumstances he ought to have exercised, to impose a consecutive element in the sentences.
‘‘This court considers that he fell into error in directing that all the sentences were to run concurrently.
Sorcha McKenna, now a 20-year-old student, was not in court for today’s judgment.
But her mother Fiona said she was delighted at the development. The family had hoped for an increase of one year, but three years was ‘‘brilliant’’.
She added: ‘‘I can’t believe it. He deserves more, of course, but three years is a bonus for us.
‘‘Sorcha broke down when I told her on the phone. She is studying hard for an exam this afternoon.
‘‘She said ‘I don’t believe you mammy,’ but she is thrilled.
‘‘I am thrilled, too. Thank God.’’