>> 23 Sep 2004

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT - PART ONE



By Courthawk.



We start this week with a reminder of what murder is worth in Northern Ireland today - 10 years. The murder of Angela Snoddy by Conor Doyle was brutal - Doyle stabbed his ex-partner 70 times, so the sentence equates to one year for every seven stabs. The Attorney General has now appealed the sentence as being unduly lenient and the verdict of the Appeal Court will be awaited with interest, not least by this column. The story has added topicality in the week when the Lord Chief Justice of England has proposed further reductions in sentences for murderers who have the decency to plead guilty - they might get off with as little as seven years! You have to ask: have we become a society which no longer wishes to punish its criminals?



The story is taken from the Irish News:




Appeal Court judges were urged yesterday to increase the jail sentence of a man who admitted murdering his ex-girlfriend in a frenzied knife attack.

Conor Doyle (23), from Limestone Road in north Belfast, was told he must serve at least 10 years of a life sentence for murdering Angela Snoddy in her Newtownabbey home in October 2002. The mother-of-two was stabbed 70 times and her throat was cut, the day after Doyle was served with court papers ordering him not to molest her. The Attorney General referred the case to the Court of Appeal because he believed the sentence was unduly lenient.



Bernard McCloskey QC, for the Attorney General, said no aspect of Doyle’s culpability could be overlooked or diminished in measuring his guilt for such an appalling murder. He said the trial judge had erred in his application of the sentencing guidelines. “He should have fastened onto a minimum term of 15 to 16 years because the mitigating factors did not outweigh the aggravating factors,” he said.



Frank O’Donoghue QC, for Doyle, said the facts of the case were such that it permitted the judge to come to the conclusion that the starting point was something less than 16 years. “His culpability was significantly reduced because he suffered from mental instability, which lowered his degree of responsibility,” Mr O’Donoghue said. In court were Ms Snoddy’s mother and the mothers of two other murder victims who have banded together to demand tougher sentences for men who kill their estranged wives or former girlfriends.



The three appeal judges reserved their decision. The Lord Chief Justice, Sir Brian Kerr, sitting with Lords Justices Nicholson and Campbell, said: “This is an extremely important case and one in which we would like to reflect on the submissions and authorities put before us.”


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