Much has been said about the state of law and order within Ireland, with seemingly absurd legal rulings being made time and time again in a country whose crime rate is soaring.
When analysing this problem, many people point to the extreme leniency of the judiciary as a leading cause.
For example, Gript’s John McGuirk has previously published pieces on Judge Martin Nolan, outlining how the adjudicator in question has, on numerous occasions, let people off with completely suspended sentences for the most outrageous sex crimes – sometimes including heinous crimes involving children.
If we want to talk about the sexual violence against women in Ireland, why is no other media outlet drawing attention to this?
Go through the sentences handed down by this judge, laid out here. Just read the ones in the image, if you lack time.https://t.co/HaqTIYxfqe
— John McGuirk (@john_mcguirk) January 15, 2022
Even when prison sentences are handed down by said judge, they appear to be extraordinarily lenient – for example, 20 months in prison for taking a blowtorch to a baby’s face.
Criticising Judges is not really the done thing in Ireland, but when a Judge thinks that improperly importing garlic merits a sentence three times more severe than attacking a toddler with a blowtorch, it's time to wonder whether he is in the wrong job.https://t.co/UugblBXtTF
— John McGuirk (@john_mcguirk) May 19, 2021
Some claim that this is not a pattern, however, and that the examples in question are simply cherry picked. So today, let’s take a look at some cases from just the past week alone, shall we?
1) damages woman’s teeth and stands on her neck in “savage” assault – avoids jail
On Wednesday the 12th of October, just this week, we heard of how 41-year-old Andrew Brennan pled guilty to assaulting his ex-partner and threatening to kill her in May of 2021.
Andrew Brennan (41), who punched and kicked his ex-partner in a “savage” attack before standing on her neck and telling her he was going to kill her has received a fully suspended prison sentence. pic.twitter.com/HcHtQRd2CX
— Courts News Ireland (@courtsnewsIRL) October 12, 2022
Following a drink and drug-fuelled binge, Brennan left the woman with two black eyes and damaged her teeth in the course of the assault. He kicked and punched her, leaving her significantly bruised, and even stood on her neck for around a minute while saying “I’m going to f*cking kill you.”
The court heard that the woman still suffers from nightmares and flashbacks to this day.
While Judge Martin Nolan said the attack was “savage” and disgraceful, he said that based on the background of the case “it would be unjust to imprison him.” As a result, Brenan received a fully-suspended sentence and will not spend a day behind bars.
2) Taxi driver who deliberately hit a cyclist avoids jail
On Tuesday the 11th of October – again, just this week – we heard of how taxi driver Dermott Reynolds, who had two minor convictions for road traffic offences, deliberately veered his car into a cyclist, knocking him off his bike.
Taxi driver who deliberately drove into a cyclist avoids jail and gets a suspended 18 month sentence https://t.co/n2sCSC7e28
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) October 12, 2022
Reportedly, after a verbal dispute between the two, Reynolds drove the taxi directly into the cyclist’s path twice, causing the victim to fall to the ground the second time.
Judge Martin Nolan said that it was “reprehensible to endanger someone in this way” – but based on mitigating factors, he decided to hand down an 18-month suspended sentence, allowing the taxi driver to avoid jail.
3) Man steals over €44,000 from work – given no jail time
On Tuesday the 11th of October, the same day as the last judgement, Judge Martin Noland gave an entirely suspended three-year sentence to an Educate Together principal who stole over €44,000 from his school over a three-year period.
Principal stole over €44,000 from his school in ‘appalling breach of trust’ https://t.co/KUIwFZZKBs
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) October 11, 2022
Principal Marcus Wynn reportedly forged invoices to account for the missing money, claiming that it was going to ChildVision, the national education centre for blind children, where the school was kept for two years. Meanwhile the rent was being paid by the Department of Education.
He pled guilty to nine counts of theft and eight counts of producing a false instrument.
Judge Martin Nolan said that the incident was “appalling” and that Wynn should be “properly ashamed” of himself.
However, based on mitigating factors, the judge opted to give the man no jail time, saying that while the amount stolen was “serious,” it was “not at the extreme end.”
4) Convicted killer with 22 previous convictions stabs 3 people – given only 3 and a half years
Earlier this week we heard of a man who was given just three and a half years in prison for stabbing three people.
Convicted killer jailed for stabbing three men outside Dublin pub https://t.co/0zgp2L5Cer
— breakingnews.ie (@breakingnewsie) October 10, 2022
A 32-year-old man had previously been convicted of manslaughter at Birmingham Crown Court in 2017 after he killed a man in a one-punch assault. He also has 22 previously convictions for other less serious offences.
However, seven years ago he got into an argument outside a pub, whereupon three men approached him to attempt to break up the row. At that point, the accused reportedly stabbed all three. He then fled to England and failed to appear in court for the hearing regarding the attacks. He had to be returned to Ireland on a European Arrest Warrant in 2020 to stand trial.
According to Detective Garda Alan Roche, one of the victims suffered tended damage to his arm, and it still does not have full function 7 years after the attack. He also has a large scar on the back of his head. The other two men were hospitalised at the time but have since recovered from their wounds.
Judge Nolan gave the man three-and-a-half years for the most serious assault, and two concurrent sentences of two years for the others, backdating them to July 2020 when the man first went into custody.
This amounts to only around 1 year and 2 months in prison for each man stabbed.
5) Father and daughters film attack and post it to social media – receive no jail time
On Monday this week, a man and his daughters have been given a suspended sentence after the man filmed the girls attacking two women and shared it to social media.
55-year-old Michael Lawrence filmed his 28-year-old daughter Jessica Maughan attacking her own 65-year-old mother-in-law while the older woman was leaving a doctor’s appointment.
A man and his two daughters have been given suspended sentences after a video recording of the sisters beating two women was shared on social media. https://t.co/GovOzXjER5
— breakingnews.ie (@breakingnewsie) October 10, 2022
He also recorded his 31-year-old daughter attacking the woman’s daughter, while the daughter was in the car waiting to pick up her mother.
The attack was posted to YouTube and received 3,500 views, which the woman said they still suffered from psychologically due to the humiliation.
Judge Martin Nolan said that the assault was “disgraceful” and “vicious.” However, he gave both the father and the two daughters a two-year suspended sentence each, allowing them to walk free without jail time.
It’s hard to claim that these are examples of “cherry picking” when they are all from just the last week alone – it seems more likely that this is simply a trend within the Irish judiciary, where almost any crime, no matter how outrageous, is met with the lightest slap on the wrist possible.
What kind of a deterrent are sentences like these supposed to represent to potential law-breakers? And why should any criminal fear the Irish justice system when they see headlines like these every day?