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Politicians call for prosecutors to review 'lenient' three-year jail term given to OAP's killer

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Margaret Henderson-McCarroll

Margaret Henderson-McCarroll

Eddie Girvan

Eddie Girvan

Roy Beggs

Roy Beggs

Gordon Lyons

Gordon Lyons

Stewart Dickson

Stewart Dickson

Margaret Henderson-McCarroll

Prosecutors in Northern Ireland are considering whether the three-year jail term given to a woman for killing a Co Antrim pensioner is unduly lenient.

Eddie Girvan, a retired plumber, was 67 when he was discovered bound, gagged and stabbed in his Greenisland home in January last year.

Margaret Henderson-McCarroll, a 31 year-old mother-of-two who had been living at a hostel in Verner Street, Belfast, admitted his manslaughter claiming diminished responsibility.

On Monday she was given a six-year sentence for his manslaughter, with three to be served behind bars.

She claimed to have been intoxicated at the time on a mixture of heroin and crystal meth, insisting she was acting in self-defence over an argument about money she alleged Mr Girvan owed her for sex.

The sentence prompted outrage from a close friend of Mr Girvan as well as local politicians.

Yesterday a spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service said it is considering whether there is "a basis to refer the sentence handed down in this case to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that it may be unduly lenient".

The prosecutors have a total of 28 days to refer the sentence to the Court of Appeal.

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors such as intent and excessive violence.

Three MLAs for East Antrim have hit out against the sentence.

Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has written to the Director of Public Prosecutions about the matter.

"The justice system has a duty to protect the public and punish criminals," he said.

"The public want to see punishments that fit the crime. Sentences that are perceived as weak or inadequate can shake public confidence in the judicial process and that is very dangerous territory indeed.

"I believe that this sentence, effectively three years for the death of a man at the hands of a person with over 100 previous convictions, is unduly lenient."

"Sentencing reviews have been promised by the last two Justice Ministers. It is perfectly clear that what we need now is action not words."

DUP MLA Gordon Lyons also urged the PPS to refer the sentence.

"This was a brutal attack on Mr Girvan. The judge rightly called it horrific," he said.

"People in Greenisland are shocked and outraged at the unduly lenient sentence that has been handed down. The justice system should be able to demonstrate that those who commit serious and dangerous crimes will face the full rigour of the law.

"Sentences like this do not send a clear message to those who are criminals and who seek to destroy life and property.

"The taking of a life should result in more than just three years in prison.

"I would urge that the PPS refer this decision to the Court of Appeal so that an appropriate sentence can be imposed and that justice would be done."

Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson, who knew Mr Girvan, said: "While obviously I am not privy to all the information the judge had in coming to this decision, from the outside looking in it does appear the sentence does not match the crime committed."

He added: "The justice system not only has a duty to deliver justice for the victim and his family, but also to take steps to rehabilitate the offender, which also makes me question the breakdown of the sentence, especially with psychology and drug rehab services in prisons under strain."

Passing sentence on Monday at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Treacy agreed with two consultant forensic psychologists that Henderson-McCarroll did not meet the dangerous provisions and that she did not pose a "significant risk of serious harm to the public in the future''.

Addressing the court he said: "This was an horrific crime and the deceased must have suffered terribly."

During the trial, the prosecution had accepted a guilty plea of manslaughter from Henderson-McCarroll on the grounds of "diminished responsibility".

In June at a defence and plea hearing, her life at the time of the killing was described by a defence QC as a "heroin hell", which had worsened after the death of her infant daughter.

The court also heard how she had known Mr Girvan for years and she received money for sex with him.

Following his death she had taken more heroin and after taking his car became involved in a road collision within hours.

This prompted police to call to Mr Girvan's address, eventually breaking in when they became concerned for his safety.

His body was discovered tied to a chair on the ground floor with two stab wounds to his chest.

In addition, a large wad of kitchen roll was stuffed into his mouth and he was gagged with a tie.

by allan preston

Belfast Telegraph