Solicitor defends judge over teen killer’s sentence
The solicitor who represented a teenager convicted of killing his grandfather for £80 rent money has hit back at criticism of his one-year jail sentence.
Eamonn Coyle stabbed and strangled Francis O’Neill during a robbery at the frail and partially blind pensioner’s home in Omagh.
This week the 18-year-old killer, from Holmview Terrace in the town, was sentenced to 12 months after admitting manslaughter.
But because of time already served on remand, Coyle will be back on the streets by the end of the month.
The sentence has been heavily criticised, with Stormont Justice Committee chairman Lord Morrow branding it “outrageous”.
But solicitor Padhraic Cunningham, who was on the teen killer’s legal team, defended the judge, Mr Justice Richard McLaughlin.
He said people criticising the sentence may not be fully informed about the case facts.
“Mr Justice McLaughlin is an experienced High Court judge who considered the appropriate level of sentence,” he told the Ulster Herald.
“This was a particularly tragic case for all involved; however, the outcome was carefully considered before passing sentence.
“Those making comment regarding the appropriateness or otherwise of the sentence may not be fully conversant with all the facts of this unprecedented case.”
Coyle was just 16 when he strangled Mr O’Neill, a 78-year-old retired psychiatric nurse, and stabbed him in the neck. The pensioner’s body was found at his Brook Valley flat during the early hours of April 11, 2009.
Coyle denied killing his grandfather. His defence team said he admitted manslaughter on the grounds that he failed to seek help after finding Mr O’Neill dead.
But this was rejected by the judge, who said he had no doubt Coyle strangled his grandfather.
The Public Prosecution Service is to consider whether the sentence was unduly lenient.