Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Urgent review of sentence is vital

Very few court decisions can truly be said to be jaw-droppingly astounding, but the one-year jail sentence passed on teenager Eamonn Coyle for killing his grandfather certainly falls into that category.

No matter what rationale is applied to the sentencing, it still seems inexplicable to the public - and no doubt to the police and prosecution service who brought the guilty youth to court.

This was a crime, which to the ordinary person, has no mitigating factors. Coyle killed his frail grandfather while trying to get money to pay his rent. He strangled him and also stabbed him. He even denied killing him, pleading guilty to manslaughter but saying that he had found the elderly man dying and his only crime was not seeking help for him.

The judge rejected this version of events, further reinforcing the public view that Coyle never appeared to be contrite for his deadly actions.

The judge said he took into account Coyle's age at the time of the crime - 16 - his minimal criminal record and a series of positive reports from relevant agencies. Coyle's mother - the daughter of the dead man - also spoke positively about him and all these factors weighed with the judge. But had the victim not been related to Coyle would that have made his mother's plea for clemency less effective, and possibly led to a stiffer sentence?

Yet, to most people, the crime was all the greater because the victim was related to the perpetrator. And there will be many who have received longer sentences for lesser crimes than taking a life who will not be able to reconcile their punishment with that meted out to Coyle.

The sentence appears to be at such odds with the natural public expectation in cases where death has resulted that it must be reviewed. Only then and with a full public explanation of whatever final sentence is imposed will the widespread concern over the outcome of this case be laid to rest.

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