The family of murdered west Belfast greengrocer Harry Holland today vowed to fight on for justice despite a decision by the Attorney General not to review the sentences handed down to the three teenagers linked to the killing.
Tommy Holland, Mr Holland’s cousin, said the family is now seeking further legal advice on how best to challenge the sentences and the PPS case, of which they have been critical.
“This is not the end of the road for us. Everyone is gutted about the Attorney General’s decision, it is like kicking someone when they are down. The only people cheering about this decision are the people involved in the murder of Harry Holland,” said Mr Holland.
“But we are not giving up our fight for justice. The PPS, the Judiciary and the Attorney General are supposed to be responsible for the victims and we do not believe that to be the case here. We will not stop until we have justice for Harry.”
Mr Holland’s family received a letter from the Attorney General, Baroness Scotland, this week saying that she could not review the sentences given to the three teenagers last month.
In July, 18-year-old Stephen McKee from Ballymurphy Road was told he must serve at least 12 years of a life sentence. Patrick Crossan, from Willowbank Gardens in west Belfast, was sentenced to four years for attempted affray and having an offensive weapon. A 17-year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, walked free from court after being given two years’ probation for affray and common assault.
All three teenagers had initially been charged with murder. However, after McKee admitted to the killing, the PPS decided to drop murder charges against Crossan and the girl, a move criticised by Mr Holland’s family.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Alasdair Fraser, had asked Baroness Scotland to review the sentences. However, she sent the Holland family a letter saying she could not review them.
She said she was “deeply sorry to have to write in terms that I know will add further to the pain you and your family have endured”.
“You may have believed that my powers to refer a sentence — and those of the Court of Appeal to increase sentences — were wider than they are,” she said.
“But please accept that I have given these sentences the very careful consideration your loss and suffering demanded.”
Baroness Scotland added that Stephen McKee would “only be released, if and when, the Parole Board are convinced it is safe to do so”.
One of Mr Holland’s daughters, Sarah Holland, said the family was “bitterly disappointed”.
“It’s demoralising but we will be taking legal advice to see if we can take this further. The important thing is that we continue our campaign on the implementation of justice in the north. We don’t want anyone else to have to deal with the same situation.”
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams described the Attorney General's response as “inadequate and deeply disappointing for the family of Harry Holland and for the west Belfast community”.
In a statement, the Attorney General's office said she was deeply sorry to have to pass on a decision that would disappoint the Holland family.
“She has written personally to Mrs Holland explaining the basis for her decisions,” the statement said.
“In determining the range of sentence that may be appropriate, the court is given guidance by the Court of Appeal.
“The trial judge in this case, with the assistance of counsel before him, considered and applied the appropriate guidance.
“The attorney cannot say that the tariff imposed on Stephen McKee fell outside the range and cannot, therefore, refer the matter to the Court of Appeal for reconsideration.”