Cork Court ruling sets dangerous precedent

Reversal of already lenient sentence on assault Garda  "highly dangerous"

Photo: Malachy Steenson
Malachy Steenson

The decision today by Judge Ó Donnabháin in Cork Circuit Criminal Court to reverse a 6-month custodial sentence imposed only yesterday on Garda Dean Foley for an unprovoked and vicious attack on a man two years ago has been has been deemed as a "highly dangerous precedent" by Malachy Steenson, Workers' Party representative in Dublin Central, who is also a Practicing Solicitor and Criminologist.
"Everybody is supposed to be equal before the law. However the ruling today by Judge Ó Donnabháin totally stands that precept on its head. The judge has now established a two tier system of defendants and a two-tier sentencing system" said Mr Steenson.
"We must ask ourselves one simple question to put the true implications of Judge Ó Donnabháin's decision in perspective. What would have happened in court yesterday if Stephen Murphy was found guilty of a major assault on Garda Dean Foley rather than the other way about? What is the likelihood that yesterday he would have received an 18-month sentence with 66% suspended which meant in reality that he would spend probably less that three months in jail? What are the odds that today he would be free to walk the streets? Last week a man from a working class area received a four-year sentence for spitting at a member of the Gardaí.
"The gardaí are supposed to be the guardians of our society. They should set, and be seen to meet, the highest standards of behaviour and probity in their actions and in their dealings with the public. The decision in Cork today sets a lower standard, and a lower penalty, for the gardaí that for the general public. This is clearly outrageous and will add to the growing public disquiet amongst the public about the Gardaí. We have had too many incidents, from deaths in custody to alleged rape threats in Rossport, where malpractice ranging from criminality, shoddy work practices, and clear racial or gender bias to be fobbed off any more by platitudes and pious words from on high."
"The Workers Party would demand that the DPP would immediately appeal the sentence handed to Garda Foley as being so lenient as to be perverse. We would also demand that the Minister for Justice and the Chief Justice, make a clear public statement that in future sentencing policy should not be influenced by the background or profession of the defendant or the fact that a large financial compensation was made. We must never forget that the deference in the past of the legal system to the clergy in general and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in particular allowed clerical child sex to flourish and ended with the physical and emotional destruction of thousands of lives.
The re-entry of this matter before the Court on the basis that the Barrister “forgot to say something further in mitigation” is certainly unusual as Garda Foley has an opportunity to Appeal his sentence in the High Court. It will now be open to practitioners to attempt to reopen every conviction before the same Court if they don’t get a satisfactory penalty.” 
 Unless everyone is equal before the law" concluded Mr Steenson "then there is no law and there certainly is no justice"

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