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Justice fails the victim yet again

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 23/12/2015

It is easy to understand the anger and frustration of Helen-Louise Doney after learning that prosecutors are not to challenge the length of the sentence imposed on a man who viciously attacked her son, leaving him with brain damage
It is easy to understand the anger and frustration of Helen-Louise Doney after learning that prosecutors are not to challenge the length of the sentence imposed on a man who viciously attacked her son, leaving him with brain damage

It is easy to understand the anger and frustration of Helen-Louise Doney after learning that prosecutors are not to challenge the length of the sentence imposed on a man who viciously attacked her son, leaving him with brain damage.

She was appalled when Lisburn man Ryan Craig - a man with a record of violence - was jailed for five years, with another five on supervised licence, for the sickening assault on her son, Scott Vineer. Craig and two others launched the cowardly attack, leaving Scott, who is autistic, so badly injured he could only be identified by bracelets he was wearing.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) offered Helen-Louise some hope last month when it said it would consider appealing the sentence on the grounds it may be unduly lenient, but has now told her no challenge will be made.

In strict legal terms, the PPS may be correct in saying that the sentence cannot be viewed as unduly lenient. It may well fall within the sentencing guidelines under which judges have to operate. The fact that Craig pleaded guilty is one mitigating factor in his favour.

However, the cold logic of the law does not chime with the feelings of the victim or his mother. What they feel is that they have been let down by the justice system.

They can point out that Scott was left for dead and that he now suffers from severe injuries that may well blight the rest of his life. He is the person who will bear the mental and physical scars of this horrifying crime for many, many years to come.

In contrast, one of the perpetrators of the crime will still be a young man when he is released from prison. Provided that he stays out of trouble for five years after that, his punishment will be at an end.

In the eyes of Helen-Louise and Scott, justice has not been seen to be done. They know the nightmare they have undergone because of the actions of thugs, yet they feel they will be the ones left to suffer so much longer.

There is often a difficulty in reconciling the expectation of victims with the strictures of the law. Naturally, those who have been wronged want to see punitive action taken against the transgressors. They want them punished by sentences that serve as a deterrent to others. Five years in jail for an attack that easily could have ended in the death of the victim does not, to the lay person, seem to be either sufficient punishment or a deterrent. Perhaps the Appeal Court should be asked to adjudicate on its fairness.

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