Community anger over leniency of sentence for Graham Tobin’s killer
Local MEP calls for clarity on sentencing determinants
Sinn Féin MEP, Matt Carthy, has reported widespread community anger and disappointment with the sentence of eight years imprisonment for the killer of Graham Tobin handed down last week.
The Co Monaghan based representative confirmed that he has been in regular contact with members of Graham’s family who were shocked by what they consider to be the excessively lenient sentence delivered in the case. Carthy called for greater clarity on the determinants used by judges to mitigate sentences citing for example the position where a defendant has a sentence reduced for pleading guilty despite the fact that the guilt is never in doubt.
The MEP acknowledged that judges were acting within their remit but that the case of Graham Tobin’s killing, following as it does an even shorter sentence for the killer of Seamus Bell, have led to many calls from across Co Monaghan for stricter penalties for those convicted of violent actions which cause the death of innocent people.
Matt Carthy said: “Those of us who knew Graham Tobin remain in shock with what happened to him. Graham was a gentleman in every sense of the word, he was liked by everyone who met him and he was a person who avoided conflict at every turn. It is unthinkable that his life was ended in such a callous manner.
“The grief that his family are going through remains unbearable, they will never get over their loss. He was a much-loved father, husband, son and brother. I have to say it is sickening to think that Graham’s eldest child may be still in school when his killer is released. Graham’s four boys have lost their Daddy and, of course, no sentence would compensate them for that.
“But, speaking to people in Carrickmacross in recent days, there is widespread anger and frustration and a belief that the sentences for crimes such as this do not sufficiently act as a deterrent. In this case there were two distinct crimes – the unprovoked attack on Graham which led to his injuries and the subsequent refusal to seek medical intervention for him as he lay unconscious and critically injured for four hours.
“Sentencing guidelines need to reflect the second crime as much as the first. There is also need for clarity regarding the mitigation applied by judges in cases like this. It appears that a ‘Guilty’ plea will always lead to a reduced sentence even though in this case it is clear that guilt was never in doubt. Also, the notion that a defendant can receive mitigation for writing a letter of apology, regardless of whether that apology is accepted or even if it is actually sincere needs to be addressed in my view.
“The defendant is this case was already serving a suspended sentence, therefore having broken the terms of the suspension he should have been returned to prison – the notion that the period he has spent on remand during this trial should be now taken off his time for Graham’s killing does not make sense. It is also galling for Graham’s family that his killer’s sentence was further mitigated because of the so-called ‘good behaviour’ of the defendant while he was on remand.
“Unfortunately, incidents such as this are too prevalent. Previously in South Monaghan, Seamus Bell was also killed by an unprovoked attacked. In both instances the killers had previous convictions, in both incidents the prevailing opinion is that the sentences handed down did not reflect the grievous nature of the crime.
“I will be writing to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan requesting that he prioritise the judicial council bill which, due to Sinn Féin input, has provision for sentencing guidelines for the first time in legislation. If the Minister prioritises this bill it can be passed before the summer recess. In that event the process of drafting guidelines can begin quickly which should lead to a situation whereby appropriate and more consistent sentences are handed down and excessively lenient sentences, such as in this instance, are eliminated.”