Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Family of Irish journalist who died after being punched want overhaul of sentences

Gary Burch was given five and a half years for the manslaughter of Eugene Moloney

Eugene Moloney's brother Sean speaking to the media outside the criminal courts in Dublin after Gary Burch was sentenced to five and a half years. Niall Carson/PA
Eugene Moloney's brother Sean speaking to the media outside the criminal courts in Dublin after Gary Burch was sentenced to five and a half years. Niall Carson/PA
An undated family handout of Eugene Moloney as Gary Burch was sentenced to five and a half years for Mr Moloney's death in Dublin today
An undated family handout of Eugene Moloney as Gary Burch was sentenced to five and a half years for Mr Moloney's death in Dublin today
An undated family handout of Eugene Moloney as Gary Burch was sentenced to five and a half years for Mr Moloney's death in Dublin today
An undated family handout of Eugene Moloney as Gary Burch was sentenced to five and a half years for Mr Moloney's death in Dublin today

The family of an Irish journalist who died after being punched by a drunken street reveller has urged an overhaul of prison sentences for violent attacks.

Gary Burch (21) of Kennington Close, Templeogue, Co Dublin, was given five and a half years for the manslaughter of Eugene Moloney on Camden Street in Dublin city centre last year.

But Judge Mary Ellen Ring suspended the final two years and backdated the imprisonment to last December.

Burch, a trainee mechanic and former amateur boxer, should spend less than three years behind bars for the killing.

Outside court, Mr Moloney's brother Sean said society needed to look at sentences given for unprovoked street attacks, while parents needed to check their attitude to children's behaviour.

"It can't go on. It's neither fair nor right," he said.

"We came here today to get justice for Eugene and the judge did her very best. She was clearly moved.

"When you looked at the other family you realise just what a sorry day it is for both families. Insofar as no amount of justice will bring our brother back, the other man's life is ruined."

Eugene Moloney, 55, from Co Donegal, began his career at the Irish News in Belfast during the 1970s and 1980s before moving to the Irish Independent in Dublin where he worked for more than 20 years. He had been freelancing for the Irish Daily Mail at the time of his death.

Judge Ring, her voice trembling with emotion at times as she delivered the sentence, recounted how Burch delivered the single fatal blow to Mr Moloney's head on the night of June 24 last year.

The journalist was walking home from a night out when a verbal row broke out between him and a group of younger, drunk men.

CCTV footage showed Burch, who said he had drunk 10 bottles of beer and a couple of shots, strike Mr Moloney, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.

A witness described it as a "cheap shot and a rubbish punch". Burch was seen afterwards throwing his arms out in celebration.

Judge Ring praised medically rained bypassers who stopped to help Mr Moloney, who was bleeding heavily after hitting the ground. He was unconscious and remained so until he later died.

Burch was arrested the following day, admitted his role and said he was disgusted with himself.

A member of a boxing club when younger, he gave evidence that he had taken part in a "white collar" fight the previous year.

Dressed in a black suit, pin-striped shirt and purple striped tie during the sentence hearing, he stared ahead throughout, bowing his head once or twice.

Judge Ring said Mr Moloney lived life to the full and had plenty of tomorrows before his life was ended without warning.

But she added Burch was only at the start of his career and the court accepted his genuine remorse and that he was trying to make sense of what had happened.

A number of testimonies were made on his behalf, including from the manager of a motor company where the apprentice was doing a state training scheme during his bail.

Judge Ring said there were signs at this early stage that Burch could rehabilitate himself and she had to take into account that he had no previous convictions.

Burch did not set out to kill Mr Moloney, but his attack was without cause and was gratuitous, she said.

Describing the killing as at the lower end of the middle range for manslaughter, she said she was also bound to take into account the unusual nature of the lethal injury and that Burch pleaded guilty.

The sentence was backdated to December 15. The final two years were suspended on the condition of Burch keeping the peace and good behaviour, as well as keeping probation terms.

 

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