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Attorney General to face Holland family over sentence review

Attorney General Baroness Scotland is to meet the family of a Belfast murder victim to explain face to face why she has refused a review of sentences of those held responsible.

The victim's family said they were totally inadequate.

Harry Holland, 65, was stabbed to death with a screwdriver close to his west Belfast home two years ago.

Last month 18-year-old Stephen McKee, of Ballymurphy Road, Belfast, was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years for the murder of Mr Holland.

Two other teenagers were also sentenced for charges related to the murder after murder charges against them were dropped.

Patrick Crossen, from Willowbank Gardens, was given four years for attempted affray and possessing an offensive weapon and a 17-year-old girl was placed on probation for two years after admitting affray and common assault.

The Holland family saw the sentences, particularly those of the latter two, as too lenient and asked the Public Prosecution Service to petition Baroness Patricia Scotland for a sentence review.

Her refusal was revealed in a letter to the family yesterday.

Today West Belfast MP and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the Attorney General had agreed to meet with him and the family to discuss all the implications of the case.

He said: "Her refusal to review the sentences in Harry's case or refer them to the Court of Appeal and her failure to tackle the obvious and glaring shortcomings within the Public Prosecution Service is deeply disappointing for the family and for the west Belfast community."

Mr Adams added: "The family and the community are justifiably angry at the sordid secret deal that was done between the PPS and those who carried out the murder which led to reduced charges and minimum sentences against two of the accused."

he said he was particularly concerned baroness Scotland had relied solely on information supplied to her by the Director of Public Prosecution for her decision.

"She has not questioned or investigated the behaviour and actions and judgments made by the PPS," he said.

In a letter to Mr Adams, released by him, the Attorney General said: "The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland forwarded the papers to me not because he considered the sentences to be unduly lenient but because he was aware that the Holland family had indicated publicly that they wanted me to review the sentences imposed.

"Rather than risk the statutory deadline being missed, he arranged for the papers to be collected and sought the advice of independent Senior Counsel.

"This barrister was not connected with the prosecution but is used by me to advise on sentencing in these cases. Through the actions of the Director I was in a position to consider the case within the time limit.

"After careful consideration of the papers I was unable to conclude that the sentences imposed in this case were unduly lenient."

She said that in his letter to her Mr Adams had referred to Mr Holland's murder being the culmination of a "violent spree" and not an isolated incident.

She said: "Whilst it is entirely understandable that the public might form such a view and that such a view would influence perceptions of how the case was handled by the PPS, it is important to have regard to the fact that the PPS can only proceed on the basis of the admissible evidence available to it."

Belfast Telegraph


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