Belfast Telegraph

Outrage as ‘macabre’ killer has sentence reduced

By Alan Erwin and Patrice Dougan

Reducing the sentence of a convicted murderer who stabbed his victim 15 times sends out the wrong message to society, according to a Policing Board member.

Jimmy Spratt was speaking after Paul James Morrin yesterday secured a two-year reduction in his life sentence for killing a teenager celebrating his 19th birthday.

Morrin had originally been sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison for murdering Gerald O’Hagan at Morrin’s Galliagh Park flat in Derry in February 2006.

O’Hagan had his jugular vein severed in a savage attack in which he was knifed 15 times in the back and neck.

Mr Justice Hart yesterday detailed a number of “macabre features” identified in the case, including the taking by Morrin of a perfectly framed photo of the victim after he had been killed, cigarette ash found on his body, and the unexplained presence of a meat cleaver at the scene.

Morrin, a former process operator with Seagate, claimed to have woken up in his flat, still drunk, to find the victim lying in a bedroom.

The Court of Appeal yesterday backed submissions that Morrin appeared to have been penalised for contesting the case against

him. Last night, Mr Spratt said the original sentence should have been upheld.

“I would have thought the decision of the original judge should have stood and there should have been no reduction whatsoever,” he said.

“What sort of message does that send out to the victim’s family and to people who would perpetrate that sort of violent crime?”

The Policing Board member said that given the brutality of the murder and the circumstances around it, Morrin did not “warrant any sort of reduction”.

“Thankfully it’s only two years, which indicates to me that the appeal judge considered it still to be serious,” he said. “But I think it’s wrong and I think the judge should have allowed it (the original sentence) to stand.”

An SDLP councillor for the Shantallow area where the murder took place, Shaun Gallagher, agreed.

“I’m not a supporter of reducing sentences for people who commit murder,” he said.

“I’m thinking about the victim’s family and the life sentence they have to live without a loved one.”

Morrin was yesterday appealing the sentence imposed on him after failing in an earlier bid to have his murder conviction overturned.

After the verdict was delivered one of the victim's relatives stood up in the public gallery and shouted: “Shame on you.”

Belfast Telegraph


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