10/11/2007

Victim Impact Statements

Minister for Justice, Brian Lenihan, has indicated that the Government will not legislate to limit the publication of Victim Impact Statements in the wake of comments made last night by Mr Justice Paul Carney.



He said that this was a matter for the courts and not the legislature.

I am caught between a rock and a hard place on this issue. I believe the VIS's have a valuable role to play in the sphere of criminal justice as they allow victims who often feel removed from the process, especially in sexual offences cases, a chance to present their views.

That being said they are open to abuse and can have an negative impact on Article 6 of the ECHR, the right to a fair trial.

In the case to which Mr Justice Paul Carney was refferring, the case of Wayne O'Donoghue, I have no doubt that an abuse took place.

The victims mother, Majella Holohan, departed from her victim impact statement to ask why the prosecution had never introduced evidence of semen on her son's body.

This then led to O'Donoghue being wrongly branded as a paedophile killer by the media and had left him with "no future in this country" according to Mr Justice Paul Carney.

Ms Holohan is quoted this morning as saying she is "offended and hurt" by the remarks and would not have done justice to Robert if she did not mention the semen.

She says she understands that some matters cannot be put before the jury for legal reasons, but her remarks were being put before Mr Justice Carney to show how the crime had impacted upon her, rather than being directed at the jurors.

I'm sorry but that's a load of nonsense!

Did she ask the judge this question in open court with the jury present or in a Voir Dire????

I have no doubt that she knew exactly what she was doing when she rung that bell, she knew that would always be in the mind of the jurors despite what the trial judge said.

That to me is an abuse and I hope the court takes action against those who commit such abuses in the future.

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