Saturday, May 2, 2009

Criminal "Justice"

I was horrified to read of another travesty of justice by a sentencing judge this week. I started a thread on but I did not expect to hear from the victim's family who gave shocking details of this terrible crime. The information they provide paints a grim picture of their father's brutal murder at the hands of a callous and vicious young man.

The most outrageous aspect of the case, in my view, is the apparent failure of the judge to acknowledge the profoundly unnatural act of parricide. There is more than a hint of J.M. Synge in this story. Is there a Pegeen Mike who would slip a noose around this thug and say
"A strange man is a marvel, with his mighty talk; but what's a squabble in your back-yard, and the blow of a loy, have taught me that there's a great gap between a gallous story and a dirty deed."

A dirty deed is what Thomas Cunningham did when he kicked his father unconscious and left him to die in the garden of their home in Roscommon. He was just 18 at the time of the killing. He was born in England but returned to Ireland two years earlier to life with his father and grandparents in Roscommon.

The jury failed to convict this thug of murder even though he clearly intended to cause serious injury to his father. (Despite the clear evidence that the accused lay in wait for his father, defence counsel is quoted as telling the jury that his client "didn't mean to kill his father")

Judge Paul Butler gave him six years suspended with a €100 bond so this young killer is on his way back to England, free as a bird.

His father's siblings are naturally disgusted. They probably expected something like justice for their brother and now they wonder whether alcoholic fathers are fair game?
His first cousin is Cllr. John Kelly who was Mayor of Roscommon at the time of the "murder". Political connections cannot bring justice for the victims, but they are invaluable to the guilty.

The jury heard that the deceased had been drinking on the day leading up to his death and came home drunk. The defendant was annoyed with his father who had been sent out earlier to buy food.He grabbed his father and punched him outside the house. The deceased fell to the ground where the accused said he punched him twice more and kicked him.The deceased was helped up but fell down again and was left in the garden overnight with a duvet and pillow. He was found dead the following morning.

Of course, this farce would not be complete if the second act (arrest and charge) had not brought its own drama: the evidence of the State Pathologist wasn't ready so the accused was released by the District Court, re-arrested that day and then re-released by the court. No surprise, he skips off to England.

At first, I was inclined to give him credit for coming back to face charges but then I realised there may be a more sordid explanation. I wonder if it is connected with the death of his grandfather just after he fled to England (of course, the grandfather had to go into care when his son was killed and the grandfather died there 4 months later). The grandfather tried to help his son when he was lying unconscious but the thug of a grandson wouldn't help. Now that grandad was dead, there was no surviving witness so this thug could claim that his only gave his dad a couple of kicks and that his head had smashed off the floor when they were trying to lift him up.

Today's Independent gives coverage to the family's reactions.

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