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Holland family will feel sense of injustice

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 08/09/2016

Harry Holland was stabbed to death in west Belfast nine years ago
Harry Holland was stabbed to death in west Belfast nine years ago

The anger of the family of Harry Holland, the greengrocer stabbed to death in west Belfast nine years ago, at the news that his killer is soon to begin a pre-release scheme is understandable. The man who robbed them of a much-loved husband, father and grandfather who was much-respected within his local community will soon be back walking the streets.

Killer Stephen McKee will still be a young man in his twenties with his life all before him, but his victim could never return to his family, could never again be the rock on which they all depended.

Harry Holland died at 65 after being stabbed in the head with a screwdriver by McKee.

If there is any doubt about the impact this vicious attack had on the Holland family, then simply read his daughter's words in this newspaper today. Think of the horror sight that met her after she drove through the night from Dublin to the Belfast hospital where her father was lying dying.

Think also how Mr Holland's wife used to break down every time someone put their key into her front door and she realised afresh that her beloved husband would never come through that door again.

The arguments over sentencing in our courts have been well-rehearsed. We know that judges have to abide by sentencing guidelines and that the justice system has protocols for dealing with sentenced prisoners.

McKee was jailed for a minimum of 12 years and even when he is released he will be on licence and can be returned to jail if he breaches the term of that licence.

But even with all these caveats it is understandable that families like the Hollands feel somehow let down. They were angry at the original sentence and are angrier now at the prospect that one day soon they could bump into their father's killer on the street.

Two of Mr Holland's daughters have already left the area to avoid that prospect and also to avoid meeting two other young people who were involved in the affray that night - Patrick Crossan, since released from jail, and McKee's sister, Niamh, who was originally put on probation.

To the layperson - and particularly to the relatives of the deceased - there is a feeling of injustice. They feel that the justice system is not sufficiently balanced between retribution and rehabilitation. That of course is a subjective judgement, but it is one which is commonly held and needs to be addressed by proper debate.

Belfast Telegraph

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