Cameron Blair family speak of 'emptiness' as teenager detained for threatening partygoers

The judge said the boy's behaviour on the night was fuelled by immaturity, bravado, a perceived invincibility as well as a lack of consequential thinking.
Cameron Blair family speak of 'emptiness' as teenager detained for threatening partygoers

Kathy and Noel Blair, parents of the late, Cameron Blair: "Whose family will be next to get the dreaded phone call?". Photo: Collins Courts

The family of murdered student Cameron Blair have said that violent knife crime "has to stop". "Whose family will be next to get the dreaded phone call?", Cameron's uncle Aidan Donnelly asked while reading a statement on behalf of the Blair family outside the Criminal Courts of Justice today.

"As a parent you pray each night your child goes out that no harm will come to them and that they return home safely. We also hope and pray that they do not cross paths with people who arm themselves with knives and are violent," the statement read.

Mr Donnelly continued: "On the night Cameron was murdered three people contributed to the hostile atmosphere which ultimately led to the senseless taking of our boy's life. Thankfully, they have all now been dealt with. Every time we now hear about another innocent victim attacked or murdered with a knife it affects us immensely. Whose family will be next to get the dreaded phone call? This has to stop.

"We welcome Mr Justice Keane's verdict today and thank him for his diligence in this and other related cases. We also reiterate our thanks to Mr Justice Paul McDermott for his previous involvement in a related case.

"To all members of An Garda Siochana and the State legal team we thank you for your kindness, diligence and exceptional work in bringing all responsible to justice.

"Finally, we would like to thank all the neighbours, friends, strangers and so forth who have helped us over the past 18 months. Your support has given us strength to keep going or in the words of our darling Cameron 'keep driving it on'. Cameron always had a positive attitude and although there is now an emptiness in our world that can never be filled, we will try to honour his memory by living the best life we can."

Today's sentencing

A teenage boy who punched a girl and threatened others with a butter knife outside a house party where 20-year-old college student Cameron Blair was murdered has been sentenced to two years detention and two years supervision in his community.

Sentencing the now 16-year-old accused, who cannot be named because he is a minor, at the Central Criminal Court today, Mr Justice David Keane said the boy "deliberately armed" himself with a butter knife and "deliberately threatened" others at the party that night. "His threats were calculated and deliberate," he added.

The judge said the actions by the juvenile, who today sat in the dock alongside his mother, of striking a girl at the party in the face with his fist was "unprovoked".

Referring to the probation report, the judge said his behaviour on the night was fuelled by immaturity, bravado, a perceived invincibility as well as a lack of consequential thinking. Reading from the report, the judge noted that the boy clearly did not appreciate the gravity of the offence and the impact it had on others nor did he see how his behaviour "fuelled and contributed" to the death of a young man.

Peer pressure, the judge said, was plainly a factor in this event as he was socialising with an older influential peer group at the time. The juvenile presented as an impressionable and easily led young person with a lack of emotional development who lacked maturity, the court heard.

Mr Justice Keane reduced the headline sentence of six years detention to four years detention and said he would make a detention and supervision order for that period with "half in detention and half in supervision in the community". He sentenced him to two years detention and ordered him to submit to the supervision of the Probation Service for the other two years.

Mr Justice Keane adjourned the finalisation of the sentence until next week to see if enquiries could be made as to whether there was a place available for the boy in Oberstown Children Detention Campus. The matter was listed for mention next Friday, when the judge is sitting in the Central Criminal Court in Waterford.

"A pariah"

The court heard during the boy's sentence hearing that he had become "a pariah" in his community and the incident has had a "monumental effect" on him. His family also had to "swap" homes with the boy's grandparents "to keep him out of trouble".

The juvenile's defence counsel, Timothy O'Leary SC with Alan O'Dwyer BL, had asked Mr Justice Keane to give the boy "a chance" saying: "What is the actual purpose of putting him in jail when he has a chance to be a functioning person; a mechanic?".

Counsel also said that his client had "got caught up in this awful maelstrom" which had led to the "tragic death" of Cameron Blair.

Cameron's parents Kathy and Noel Blair and younger brother Alan were supported in the courtroom today by several other extended family members.

Cameron was a native of Ballinascarthy in west Cork and a second-year chemical engineering student at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT). He died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on January 16, 2020, after being stabbed in the neck while attending a student party at a house in Cork city. Another juvenile has already pleaded guilty to his murder.

Charge discontinued

The boy in today's case went on trial on May 28 charged with the production of a knife at a house on Bandon Road in Cork city on January 16, 2020. He had been on trial at the Central Criminal Court for almost three weeks before the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided not to continue with the charge on June 16.

Today, the DPP entered a nolle prosequi against the teenager meaning that the State will not be proceeding with the charge of producing a knife against the juvenile.

The accused, who was 14 at the time of the incident, had pleaded not guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely to unlawfully intimidate another person.

Before the State opened its case in May, the boy pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder with two other persons present together, using or threatening to use unlawful violence, and such conduct taken together would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at Bandon Road in Cork city to fear for his or another person's safety at the said place on the same occasion.

The DPP said it was not proceeding with the count of possession of a knife in circumstances where the accused accepted he was in possession of a butter knife during the course of events on the evening.

It was the defence contention during the trial that two boys out of a group of three who had gathered outside the house were in possession of a knife on the night but not the defendant in this case. One of the boys has admitted murdering Cameron and another has pleaded guilty to violent disorder and to the production of a knife.

However, it was the State's case that each of the three boys had a knife on the night. The maximum sentence for violent disorder is 10 years in prison.

In April 2020, a teenage boy, then aged 17, who murdered Cameron by plunging a knife into his neck, received a life sentence that will be reviewed in 2032. The boy, who could not be named because he was a minor, pleaded guilty to murdering Cameron on Bandon Road in Co. Cork on January 16, 2020.

Scott O'Connor (19), of Churchfield Square, Churchfield, Cork who brandished a knife outside the house party was jailed for two years. He had pleaded guilty to committing violent disorder at Bandon Road in Cork on January 16.. He has also pleaded guilty to producing an article capable of inflicting serious injury in the course of a dispute, to wit a knife, in a manner likely unlawfully to intimidate another person on the same occasion.

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