A young Cork woman whose father was killed is demanding a meeting with the Justice Minister to push for changes that would benefit other families of homicide victims.
Deirdre Coakley from Macroom has written to Helen McEntee in recent days to request a meeting with her to highlight deficiencies in how the current system deals with the families of homicide victims. It follows a letter she wrote to the minister in October 2020, just days after a court hearing was told the man who was accused of shooting her father Derry near Macroom in October 2018 had died before entering a plea in the case.
The late Gerard Lynch, 68, from Curraheen, Raleigh North, Macroom, had been charged with the murder of the 60-year-old plant hire contractor at Curraheen, Raleigh North, between October 23 and October 24, 2018.
A nolle prosequi was entered in the case in October 2020 when he died from a terminal illness before the case came to trial.
In her correspondence to Ms McEntee, 23-year-old Ms Coakley, said: “Since October 2020, I have taken the time to reflect on my experience through the justice system fighting for my dad. I can see a severe gap in managing victims’ families from a mental health perspective. There was no counselling support for my mom or I, no prep in relation to what we were going into in the criminal court, no debrief or support after a horrible day learning there was nothing more to be done.”
She received help from the Cork-based Support After Crime Services but feels there should be a national counselling service available through the criminal justice system for families like hers.
She said she recalls being told in August 2020 at a hearing of the Central Criminal Court in Dublin that it was not possible for a plea hearing to be held virtually before Gerard Lynch’s impending death, adding: “My last opportunity to get justice for my Dad was gone.”
She said: “There would be no trial and no justice for my father”.
She told the: “My heart broke in that moment.
“That was the worst day – worse than the day in court in Cork when the case was formally closed. It felt like we were cut loose.”
In her correspondence to the minister, she described it as the most excruciating news, and said: “I held out so much hope for that day to go so much differently. My mom and I sat in silence until we were told the room was needed and we had no choice but to board the train to Cork. All we wanted to do was sit and take some time to digest what had just happened, but the resources weren’t there.”
She had written a victim impact statement ahead of the trial she expected following her father’s death but she did not get the chance to read it because of the nolle prosequi being entered after Gerard Lynch’s death.
She wants families in her position in future cases to have the opportunity to inform the court how the homicide impacted on them, even if the case cannot go ahead. She said she is not looking for sympathy but instead, is looking for change in the system.