The Court of Criminal Appeal has reduced the sentence imposed on a pregnant Sligo woman for perverting the course of justice.
Rebecca McLoughlin (aged 26) of Sea View Park, Sligo was sentenced to three years in prison on October 13 last by Judge Anthony Kennedy, Sligo Circuit Court, after she pleaded guilty to lying to gardaí about events surrounding a car crash in which her friend died.
The three-judge court today upheld an appeal against the severity of her sentence, finding that a three-year jail term with the final year suspended was more appropriate.
Ms McLoughlin who is due to give birth in a few weeks' time, had maintained that her friend was driving the car on August 20, 2004, when in fact she had been the one behind the wheel at the time of the fatal crash which happened at Creggconnell, Rosses Point.
She only admitted to having being the driver in May 2008, almost four years later.
Defence Counsel, Mr. Colm Smyth SC, argued that the trial judge erred in principle when he failed to make reference to a “base sentence” for the crime, and when he failed to indicate where on the scale Ms McLoughlin’s case should be.
Defence Counsel said that prior to her attempts to conceal the truth concerning the crash, Ms McLoughlin had led “a blameless life”. He argued that his client had suffered as a result of her actions, and that she did eventually go to the gardai.
Mr Smyth SC said the fact his client is pregnant was a “special factor” to be considered.
The DPP, represented by Ms Dara Foynes BL, opposed the application. Counsel for the State said it was a “very sad case”.
In finding for the applicant, Chief Justice John Murray sitting with Mr Justice Peter Charleton and Mr. Justice Daniel O’Keefe said perverting the course of justice was a “serious offence” which undermines the effectiveness of the justice. The court found the young woman’s denial of the truth had persisted over a period of time and that this caused great distress for the family of the deceased woman.
However the CCA held that “telling the truth late, was better than not telling the truth at all”.
It said the woman was only “out of her teens” when the incident which led to the offence occurred.
The Court of Criminal Appeal held that sufficient weight had not been given to the “entire combination of factors” in this case, and that in the circumstances, the sentence was excessive.
The court imposed a three-year sentence with the final year suspended.